Lorene Ellis, 88, passed away on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, just days shy of her 89th birthday. Born in Portales, N.M., to Curran Adolpus Johnson and Laura Terine Wahrmund, she spent her early years in Texas, traveling with her family to different ranches where her father worked as a cowboy.
Lorene met her husband William, "Bill" or "W.T.," Ellis when they were both children in Texas. They married as young teenagers and had their oldest child, Terry Allen Ellis, in 1944. Lorene and Bill made the move to Alaska in 1954, where Bill, who'd recently gotten his pilot's license, thought he could find work as a small plane pilot. Bill and Lorene supposedly flipped a coin to decide if they would move to Alaska or Australia, and Alaska won. They lived in Anchorage for several years and Lorene had three more sons: Lynn, Cole and Kirk. They eventually purchased and moved to the homestead site of Nabesna, located deep in the heart of the Wrangell and St. Elias Mountains and near the now defunct Nabesna Gold Mine.
The couple started their hunting and guiding business, Devil's Mountain Lodge, in 1959, which grew to be very successful. Lorene was an accomplished hunter, trapper and outdoorswoman. She raised her four boys almost singlehandedly, as Bill was often gone for long periods during hunting season. Lorene was the first woman to ever take a trophy moose, for which she was named the most successful big game hunter of the year in 1963 and awarded the prestigious Klineberger Trophy. Lorene always made it clear that their subsistence lifestyle and need to harvest meat did not negate her love for animals and wildlife. She was an ethical hunter with a heart for all creatures.
Lorene touched many lives over the years and had many friends. A gracious host, she was always there with a kind word, cup of coffee and a batch of her amazing homemade biscuits for those that needed it. She was most at home living her life in the mountains, eschewing "town" for the Alaska wilderness.
Lorene is survived by her four sons, Terry, Lynn, Cole and Kirk Ellis; her daughters-in-law, Christy and Gennie; grandchildren, Jody, Cathy, Ben, Nathen, Jesse, Isaac, Amanda, Zoe and Emily; and great-grandchildren, Taylor, Jerimiah, Canyon, Fischer, Christian, Shyla, Rylan and Amari. She was preceded in death by her husband, Bill Ellis; her parents, Curran and Laura; her sisters, Fay, Glenda, Patsy and Lowry; brothers, Curran and Curtis; and half-sisters, Thelma Jones and Cleo Bertand.
A celebration of life will take place later this summer at Devil's Mountain Lodge.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22, 2018.