Paul L. Kirsteatter was born Aug. 17, 1922, in Illinois. As a young boy, Paul helped his father drive cattle from New Mexico across the border into Mexico. When his time came, young Paul answered his country's call to service and served in the Air Force in Africa and the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He was a prisoner of war during his service.
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In 1945, he was discharged at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and wasted no time returning to Alaska.
Paul and a friend headed north and realized building materials were scarce in Alaska after the war. Driving the Alaska Highway, they started buying materials and facilities that had been used to build the road. They sold the materials to little communities that were beginning along the highway. While he was working at the Little Gerstle River Bridge, he met his future wife, Margaret Jacobs. In 1943, a diphtheria epidemic devastated Chief John Healy's people, so he moved them, including Margaret, to the highway area at the Little Gerstle River.
Paul and Margaret formed a lifetime bond and love. Margaret spoke little English, but, listening to Paul and the radio, she soon learned. Paul learned a little Athabascan and Margaret's ancient tricks of wolf trapping, snaring wolverine and subsistence living off the land. After they married, they moved to a cabin on Healy Lake, where they spent their life together and raised their children.
Paul was known throughout the Interior as a master wolf trapper. In the early years there was a bounty on wolves, and the Department of Fish and Game paid cash. Using his dog team, Paul knew all the wolf dens, from Healy Lake to Joseph in the Fortymile and east to the Canada border. He was the first trapper to use the gang set. In his later years, he taught trapping classes at the Alaska Trappers Association. Paul never would tell Margaret when he would be returning because he never knew, and he didn't want anyone sending out a search party. Paul was gone a lot and Margaret and the kids always got moose meat for the winter, checked the fish nets and stored the fish for them and the dog team while keeping the home fires burning.
When he was home, the kids remember Paul home-schooling them by gas lantern light. Paul and Margaret lived for many years in a tiny cabin, raising four children and living a subsistence lifestyle.
Paul is remembered by his many friends and family members as a man of his word, a man to lend a helping hand to anyone in need and a true Alaskan in deed and spirit. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and his family.
Paul passed away July 23, 2012, from complications from open heart surgery in the Palo Alto, Calif., Veterans Hospital, just short of his 90th birthday.
He requested there be no services. A celebration of his life for family and close friends will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 18, 2012, at Healy Lake. It is a potluck, so please bring a salad, casserole or dessert and your favorite stories to share.
Paul's greatest joy was his family and many friends. He is survived by: daughter, Dorothy Kirsteatter; stepdaughter, Josephine Beaver; grandchildren, Ellenore Kirsteatter and her child Gavin Schultz, Paul (Deedle) A. Kirsteatter, Melissa Erickson and her children, Evelyn Comb and Lorinda Comb, Brian Erickson and his child, Meleia, Lisa Riyett and her child, Kiara Rivett; niece, Sarah Gorrod (Dan); sons, Casey Gorrod and his children, Kaylce, Jasmine and Lindsey, and Travis Gorrod and his child, Rachelle Phipps; nephew, David Joe Sr. and his son, David Joe Jr.; brother, Fred Kirsteatter of Arizona and his children Kirk in Utah, Kathy Teufel (Jerry) and her son, Dallas, in Wisconsin.
Published in Daily News-Miner on July 31, 2012