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Gerald "Jerry" Hassel


1930 - 2019
Gerald "Jerry" Hassel Obituary
Gerald "Jerry" Hassel passed on peacefully at home with family by his side on Sept. 25, 2019, just two days shy of his 89th birthday in his hometown of Fairbanks. Jerry was born Gerald Lee Hassel to Harold and Alinda Hassel on Sept. 27, 1930, in St. Joseph's Hospital. Harold and Linda Hassel emigrated from Norway to Alaska in the early 1920s and carved out a living for themselves as gold miners. In his early years, Jerry lived with his folks and his sister Marian at their family mine on Fairbanks Creek near Cleary Summit. The Hassel family spent winters in their home on Eighth Avenue in downtown Fairbanks, and Jerry attended Fairbanks Main School, from which he was graduated with the class of 1949. After high school, he served as a sergeant in the Army during the Korean War.
Jerry attended Tri-State College of Engineering and Commerce at Angola, Indiana, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and he held a fascination with all things mechanical in many various occupations throughout his long life: He earned his pilot's license and owned a plane with business partner Jack Hill; he owned and operated the Courtesy Corner Service Station on the corner of Wendell Street and Noble Street, also with Jack Hill; he worked for M & O Auto Parts; he was a silent partner in the Old Tyme Photo Booth at Alaskaland; he retired from over 20 years of mechanic work for the M.U.S. power plant in 1986; and he continued operation and ownership of the Hassel family's R.B. Gravel Company mine on Ready Bullion Creek, a tributary of Ester Creek, until the end of his days.
Jerry was married to Joan Marie Sahlin in 1957, and they were often seen in old-fashioned swimsuits riding specially rigged "up-and-down" bicycles he built for two in the annual Golden Days parades. On Aug. 13, 1965, Jerry was thrown from his motorcycle in an accident on College Road, and Joan stayed with him day and night in St. Joseph's Hospital until he regained consciousness some five to seven days later; the Hassels returned home almost two weeks after the accident. Together they built three homes: one at Westwood Way and Totem Drive in College, and two others in Hamilton Acres on Dunbar Avenue. Jerry and Joan adopted their daughter, Jody Marie Hassel, in 1967 and then gave birth to their son James A. Hassel in 1970. Always fixing or working on something, Jerry was extremely talented with his hands; he loved carpentry, making and refinishing furniture, welding, wrenching on heavy equipment, tinkering with machinery, any kind of construction, and creating and solving puzzles. He was also a talented entertainer - throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Jerry and Joan were frequent performers in the Emblem Club's Annual Flora Dora fundraiser in which they might don all manner of ridiculous or majestic costumes for various roles in the variety show. The couple's marriage ended in 1979, and Jerry moved into a triplex home he owned on First Avenue in Fairbanks.
On a trip to Seattle, Jerry met Jung Sun Kim, and they married in 1981; they built a home on Kim Lane in Ester, Alaska with their daughter Mee Jung Kim, and together the family became a part of the Ester village and the Fairbanks Korean communities. Living in Ester afforded Jerry a close proximity to his work on the mine and to the local watering hole, the Golden Eagle, where he could faithfully be found at the end of each workday bellied up to the bar with his neighbors at 6 p.m. Throughout his years in Ester, Jerry helped build, enjoyed, and supported Ester events such as shows at the Malamute Saloon; maintaining the Fireplug dog mushing trail; building the Ester Community Park; attending the Fourth of July parade and picnic; and attending the annual Christmas gift exchange, New Year's parties, and numerous potluck celebrations for friends and neighbors at the Golden Eagle.
Jerry Hassel was a good-humored and fun-loving fellow who took part in a wide variety of community gatherings and social events. He was a member of many organizations, including the Sons of Norway Arctic Viking Lodge, charter member; The Curling Club; The Pioneers of Alaska Igloo No. 4, member number 2599: The Elks Club Lodge No. 1551; The Model A Ford Club of America; The Horseless Carriage Club of Fairbanks; Alaska Miners Association; Ester Community Association; Fairbanks Lutheran Church; the University Community Presbyterian Church; and he was a beloved member of The Diner Coffee Boys, who still meet at the back table each afternoon to solve all the world's problems.
In 2011, Jerry Hassel was honored as a veteran Fairbanks miner with the title of grand marshal of the Golden Days Parade in keeping with the theme "For Gold Times' Sake." Always a parade favorite, Jerry's collection of antique cars, modified bicycles and miscellaneous bike parts occupied much of his shop. He lost many of these bikes and his prized 1930 Model A Ford in 1994 to a tragic shop fire but immediately began rebuilding his collection with a Model A Ford kit car, a Model T Ford and various types of bicycles, many of which are still in the new shop, waiting to be rigged up into two- and four-seaters featuring Jerry's ingenious decentralized wheel hub for that classic appearance of bumping merrily up and down the road.
Jerry loved to travel and took many trips throughout his life. He ventured out on numerous road trips to the smaller states, frequent journeys to Norway, multiple vacations to warmer climates in winter, and many flights across Alaska with his partner Jack Hill in their plane. In his youth, Jerry once spent so much time in Norway that upon his return to the states he had difficulty speaking English. He made his last trip to Norway with his children in 2016 to visit relatives, including Jorun Stubberud Larsen, Nils Otto Larsen, Hans Petter Killingdalen and Aashild Jorann Rein, just to name a few.
His wife, Jung Sun Hassel, and sister Marian Schafer preceded him in death.
Jerry Hassel is survived by his daughter, Jody Marie Hassel, and son, James A Hassel, both of Fairbanks; daughter, Meme Kim, of Fairbanks; niece, Lin Sanford, of Tuscon, Arizona; niece, Kim Schafer, of Juneau; cousins, Jean Schrier, of Soldotna, Norman and Janet Lee, of Anchorage, Ingrid Edgerly, of Soldotna, and all of their children; and many other beloved relatives in Norway.
The Hassel family would like to express their gratitude for Jerry's many kind and generous caregivers, therapists and nurses, with special thanks to Mara Perez, Ester Ramac, Cassandra Brice and the whole team at Rocking Years Assisted Living Home.
A celebration of Jerry Hassel's life and times will be held Nov. 17, 2019, at 4 p.m. in the Binkley Room at Pike's Waterfront Lodge, 1850 Hoselton Road, Fairbanks, AK 99709. A private interment was held at Northern Lights Memorial Park on Oct. 2, 2019. Instead of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to the Parkinson's Foundation at www.parkinson.org or by mail to Parkinson's Foundation, 200 SE 1st St. Suite 800, Miami, FL 33131.
Published in Daily News-Miner from Nov. 6 to Nov. 10, 2019
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