Paul Starr, 70, died peacefully in the arms of his wife at home in Tanana on a beautiful afternoon on June 17, 2010. Paul fought a valiant fight against cancer for the past year.
Paul was born on September 16, 1939, in Tanana at the old Tanana Hospital to Elizabeth (Evan) and Alfred Starr, Sr. He was one of 10 children.
In 1983, Paul met the love of his life, Mary Ellen (Miller) Starr, at the First Athabascan Old-Time Fiddling Festival in Fairbanks. They married on June 14, 1984, in Tanana, and he acquired a family he lovingly referred to as his "strong-minded women." In addition, he adopted and raised two nieces and a grandson as his own.
Paul was a traditional Native man who loved to be out in the woods or on the river and never said "no" to a hunting trip, a chance to cut wood or a chance to pick berries. He enjoyed hauling drinking water from Bear Creek, being at fish camp, building snowmachine sleds, faithfully reading his Bible every day, fiddle dances, dog races and camping at Fish Creek. He loved taking vacations with Mary, including snorkeling in Hawaii and long rides on the Alaska highways to visit family and friends who are spread across Alaska.
Paul was a quiet, gentle man who lived his beliefs. He was a man of God, patient, loving and faithful. He always said he was guided by his mother's teachings and his faith.
Paul celebrated 26 years of sobriety and always was willing to support others in their journeys of sobriety and faith. In 2010, he received the Patty L. Hyslop award for "leadership in sobriety."
Paul spent his early childhood in Tanana and out on the trapline at Birch Creek in the Lake Minchumina area. His family moved to Nenana when Paul was about 12 so the kids could attend school. He started working at a young age for a powerline company out of Nenana. He also worked for Parker's Patch as a firefighter and trapper and as an ironworker on the trans-Alaska pipeline and the Yukon River bridge. In 1980, Paul began working as a deckhand on Ramona Barge where, with encouragement from owner Claude Demientieff, he worked his way up to pilot, which included obtaining his 100 ton master riverboat pilot's license.
At home, he enjoyed spending time with the children of Tanana as a school bus driver and with his wife, Mary, operating the Yukon-Starr Bed & Breakfast, giving riverboat tours and working various construction jobs in the community. He especially enjoyed his most recent work as a heavy equipment operator with Brice Inc.
Paul was very giving of his time and volunteered as an emergency medical technician, served on the Tanana City Council, as a Tribal Court Judge, on the boards of the Kokrine Hills' Bible camp and the Denali Resource Subsistence Commission, and attended and supported the St. James Episcopal Church in Tanana.
Paul's thirst for knowledge and willingness to keep learning new things has been inspiring to everyone who knows him. He encouraged others to seek knowledge and further their education as they reached for their dreams but also not to forget where they came from and who they are. Paul was known for teaching traditional knowledge to young people.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, Alfred and Elizabeth Starr; brother Arthur; older sisters Martha and Ellen, and younger sisters Florence and Martha; niece Elena; and great-grandson Samuel Joseph.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen; sister Anna, of Nenana; brothers Alfred (Jeanette) Starr, Randolph Starr, and Stanley (Louise) Starr, all of Fairbanks; inherited daughters, Zelma (Scott) Axford, Susan Miller, Carol Miller, Lucy Miller and Nina (David) Heyano; recently inherited son, Michael Briere; children, Ali (Michael) Kelly, Justin (Amanda) Miller and Christina (Lee) Starr; grandchildren, Arland (LaVonne), Brian (Carla) and Joe Dick, Bonnie (Eric) Lissy, and Andrea (Jay) Hatch, Diane (Carl) Russell, Tim (Karee) Joseph, Kayla and Shoney Ridderbush, Josie (Randall) Harrell, Rosa Heyano, Tenchi Kelly, and Dru and Bear Miller; great-grandchildren, Tayler and Dillon Schoenberg, and Randy and Ty Harrell; nephews, Andrew Starr and Michael Starr; aunt Judy Woods; uncle Paul Esau; cousins, Ernie and Esau Evan; the Starr, Jordan, Moses, Evan and Walsh families; and extended family in Tanana, Nenana, Minto, Allakaket, Stevens Village, Galena and Fort Yukon. Paul also is survived by many special nieces, nephews and young friends: Una, Orion and Eta-Starr Edwardsen, Tom and Courtney Moore, Dayna Folger, David Sanders Sr., David Sanders Jr., Billyanne White, Ruby Campbell, Tristan Woods, godchild Bethi Folger, special woodcutting partner Judy Moore, all-around buddy Barbara Martin and the Wallace family.
The family especially would like to thank Sherry Nelson, PA; Paula, the public health nurse; Dr. Marino and the oncology staff at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage for their compassionate care.
Services for Paul will be held at 2 p.m., Monday, June 21, 2010, at the tribal hall in Tanana, followed by a burial service at the city cemetery and a potlatch. Condolences can be sent to Mary Starr, P.O. Box 126, Tanana, AK 99777. For more information, please call 366-7251 or 366-7199.
Paul's family offers this quote by Helen Keller to provide comfort: "What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
Published by Daily News-Miner on Jun. 20, 2010.