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Curwood Gackstetter


1930 - 2013 Obituary Condolences
Curwood Gackstetter Obituary
Curwood Kerry Gackstetter was born April 19, 1930, in Benton County, Min., to Will and Lora (Weeks) Gackstetter. The family moved to northern Minnesota in 1934 to the Leech Lake area. A few years later, they moved to a farm on Steamboat Lake where they raised their two sons.
Curwood's first jobs as a young man included cutting timber for pulp, working on a farm in Montana and operating heavy equipment locally in Minnesota and at the Hart Butte Dam construction site.
In 1951, Curwood enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served four years in the Sea Bees, stationed in Alaska and Japan. In 1952, he married Betty Strand while on leave at his parent's home on the lake.
After his discharge from the military, he purchased his father's grader and maintained roads for Hubbard County, and plowed snow in the winter or cut timber until 1969. During this time, the family had grown to five children: Kerry, Starla, April, Cameron, and Gena. Curry had built a home, shop and pontoon houseboat. He hunted the fields, fished the lake, and day-dreamed about Alaska.
When he heard that there was a proposed oil pipeline in Alaska, he knew it would be a chance to go back. He sold his graders, built a trailer for his tools, bought a new pickup, and headed north with his cousin, Stewart Weeks. He arrived at the Alaska border on his 39th birthday. He drove on to Fairbanks and got a job with the John C. Miller Construction Company. By the time the oil pipeline permit was final, Betty and the children had driven to Fairbanks and they were again a family.
After the permit was issued, the company had plans to take a "cattrain" to Prudhoe Bay. They would haul equipment and fuel over snow and ice - no road, and in the middle of winter. It was a six-week trip, and the temperatures ranged from -30 to -56 degrees. They had a few problems, but none they couldn't fix.
When the trip was over, Curwood didn't want to be away from his family, so he worked as a carpenter. While driving to work each day, he passed by a corner he thought would be a good location for a gas station. He bought the property and "Curry's Corner" was born.
He remodeled the little gray trailer, moved it to the lot and opened the door for business on Friday, Nov. 13, 1970. He always said that thirteen was his lucky number and it was! After a year or two, he built the big store and filled it with a Post Office, gas station, grocery store and package liquor store. He was selling 150 newspapers a day.
When Curwood lived in Min., he had taken flying lessons. In Fairbanks he continued flying and bought an airplane. It wasn't big enough for hauling moose, so he bought a 170 Cessna and put a bigger motor in it. On a hunting trip out to the Woodriver area he flew Kerry out with some camping gear and planned a second trip for the rest. He had a little bad luck. He landed too short and the plane flipped over on its back. He got a ride back to town with the search plane, got his repairs together and set about to "fix it." No moose that year!
Curwood also loved gold mining. He found a claim fairly close to home and he and his friends had their own "cat train," hauling his equipment and fuel to the mine. It was not very productive, but it was a wonderful change of pace from the store.
After 12 years at Curry's, he decided it was time to move to Wash. state, where Betty's mother lived. He sold the store and bought an 8-acre apple orchard in East Wenatchee. This time he loaded a forty-foot van and shipped the van and four vehicles on the ferry, and they all flew to Seattle.
The orchard house was home for two years. On Curry and Betty's 30th anniversary, carpenters started building their current home on land they'd bought from Betty's mother and stepfather, Hal. They moved into their new home on Thanksgiving Day, 1983.
In 1992, Curwood grew restless. He and two son-in-laws bought a building in Union Gap, Wash. They moved into the building for six weeks to "fix it" into a Napa Auto Parts store, which they operated for nine years.
Curwood died quietly at home, with his wife of 60 years and his four living children, their spouses, and three of his grandchildren around his bedside.
Curwood was preceded in death by his parents, his older brother, Winton; and his oldest son, Kerry.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, at home, and daughters, Starla (Tom) Patterson, of Everett, Wash.; April (Ron) Sexton, of Grandview, Wash., Gena (Doug) Lee, of East Wenatchee, Wash., and son, Cameron (Shannon), of Fairbanks, Alaska; grandsons, Ryan (Heather) Patterson, of Fairbanks; Robert Gackstetter, of Fairbanks; Christopher Lee, of East Wenatchee, Wash.; granddaughter, Kate (Tristan) Brender, of East Wenatchee, Wash.; and great-granddaughter, Freya Patterson, of East Wenatchee, Wash.; step-grandsons, Ryan, Bob, and Bud Sexton, and their families; daughter-in-law, Debbie Gackstetter, of Fairbanks; and sister-in-law, Ruth Gackstetter; three nieces, one nephew, and their families in Minn., and Alaska.
There will be a celebration of life from 1 p.m.-3 p.m., today, June 29, 2013, at Sophie's Station, 1717 University Ave., in Fairbanks.
Published in Daily News-Miner from June 27 to July 1, 2013
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