Carl M. "Lucky" Lentz was born Jan. 29, 1935, in LaSalle, Mich., and passed away April 6, 2013, in Twin Falls, Idaho.|
During his younger years, he lived in various towns in Michigan, then the family settled in the Reed City area where he attended high school, and became the quarterback for his high school football team. As a young boy of 5, he learned the value of hard work working in the fields picking strawberries alongside German POW's. Later, he became good at hunting and fishing which supplemented the family's food supply. These values stayed with him for the rest of his life. He graduated in 1952, and signed up for the Army, joining after his 18th birthday.
While on a troop ship headed for Korea, the war ended and he was diverted to Alaska. His first glimpse of Alaska was the port of Whittier, it was love at first sight, and he spent the next 33 years in the Interior. Lucky was assigned to Fort Greely, where he mastered, and then taught, cold weather survival. He spent some time in Fort Carson, Colo., instructing mountain climbing, and helped train the first group of Green Berets.
In 1953, while fishing on the Clearwater River, he met and became friends with Al Remington. In 1954, he flew to Montana to help bring Al's family and livestock up the Alaska Highway to establish the first cattle ranch in the Interior. They left Montana on June 10 and finally arrived at the Clearwater homestead on July 1. It was a long, grueling journey up the muddy Alaska Highway, but he wouldn't have traded the experience for a million dollars. During this trip he met and eventually fell in love with Al's daughter, Barbara "Bobbie."
Lucky and Bobbie were married in 1955 and became parents to Michael "Mike," Kim and Rance. They were among the first to homestead in the Clearwater area, filing on their homestead in 1958. There were only seven families living in the area then, and Lucky used to ride horseback hunting moose and buffalo to provide for his family, as well as any others in the area who needed assistance.
Life wasn't easy, but they had good friends and good times while living there. In 1965, he sold part of the homestead to Dennis Green, and the rest to others who eventually built homes along the Clearwater River. During the early years, Lucky, along with fellow Deltan, Ray Savella, organized the first Cub Scout Pack, Pack 76.
Because of his association with Al Remington, Lucky finally got to be around horses, and learned to ride, something he'd wanted to do as a kid.
He became quite a good saddle bronc rider, and rodeoed around the state for a few years, finally winning the title and a buckle that he was very proud of. During this time he, Al and a few others, formed the Interior Alaska Livestock Corporation, putting on rodeos, and in fact did the rodeo for the first Alaska State Fair in Palmer.
When snowmachines became popular he got involved in racing, and he was very good at that as well. He raced the Midnight Sun 600 a few times, as well as other races throughout Alaska. Along with his sons, the Lentz Racing Team was tough to beat back in the 1970s.
As a member of the Operators Union Local 302, he helped build many roads in Alaska, and worked on many other projects around the state. He was a member of the first cat train to the North Slope, hauling supplies before the haul road was built.
After he and Bobbie divorced, he met Vernell Mann, and they were married in 1974. Together they ran the old Big D Bar in Delta, from 1979 to 1982, where they met a lot of great people and had some fantastic Sunday jam sessions with great local musicians, and some that were just passing through. Lucky enjoyed the music and Vernell's vocals.
During that time, it was decided that the sportsman needed more of a voice in government, so along with Lawrence Gilbertson and Bob Edwards, they formed the Delta Sportsmans' Association, which is still active today.
Lucky retired in 1986, and he and Vernell moved to Michigan, where he became an expert bow hunter, keeping the freezer full of deer and wild turkeys. In 1994, after many fruitless hunts, he finally bagged a Pope and Young record black bear in Manitoba, Canada, which he was very proud of.
After Vernell's retirement in 1997, they moved to Idaho where they have since resided. Lucky was a proud member of the Shriners, and a big supporter of the Shriners Children's Hospital, as well as a member of the American Legion.
Lucky was preceded in death by his sons, Mike and Rance; ex-daughter-in-law Judy Lentz; his parents; two brothers; two sisters; his ex-wife, the mother of his children; his wonderful golden retriever, Jody; and many friends from back in the day.
Lucky is survived by his wife, Vernell, of Hansen, Idaho; daughter, Kim (Danny) Wood, of North Pole; stepsons, David (Desiree) Weeks, of Phoenix, and Bart Taylor, of Milton, Wash.; stepdaughter, Tina Taylor of Albuqurque, N.M.; grandchildren, Rance (Angela) Lentz, of Delta Junction; Brynn (Bob) Butler, of Fairbanks; Brett (Sara) Wood, of Fairbanks, and Emily Hayes Karella, of Las Vegas; step-grandchildren, Jessica Breinholdt, of Coalville, Uah; Waylon Hervey of Hiram, Utah; Zandria Weeks of Phoenix; great-grandchildren, Gage, Dade and Rowdy Lentz; Cierra and Cailee Butler; step great-grandchildren, Ellie and Cade Butler, and a Wood baby due in September; brothers, Dale (Vi) Lentz, of Reed City, Mich. and Jim (Nancy) Lentz, of Reed City, Mich.; sisters, Pat (Don) Lockhart, of Chase, Mich,; and Shirley Parks, of Michigan.; his son, Mike and partner Tina Kezer, of Delta Junction, and his little dog, Amy.
At his request, there will be no service. His ashes will return home to Alaska to be placed at his favorite spot.
He will be missed by all those who loved him. He was a true pioneer of Alaska, and his independence and strength will live on through the family he leaves behind.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Apr. 21, 2013