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Eide, Gil & Dot

by Dick Stokes, neighbor

In 1941, when Gil Eide accepted a teaching job in Wrangell, he was already a veteran teacher, having started in rural North Dakota in 1929. On March 24, 1940, Gil married Dorothea Schultz, the daughter of Ben and Audrey of Miles City, Montana. When Gil and Dot traveled to Wrangell in 1941, Gil considered it their honeymoon trip. On that trip north they traveled by railroad to Seattle, then by the diesel powered Northland to Wrangell. They were convinced the ship stopped at every cannery between Seattle and Wrangell. They arrived two weeks later than Gil had promised and were relieved to find the teaching job still available.

The Eides were in Wrangell when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. Gil volunteered to patrol the darkened Wrangell waterfront the next night. While the Territorial Guard had been formed in Anchorage by then, Gil, who had served in the National Guard in North Dakota, was one of the Alaska Territorial Guard’s earlier Southeastern recruits.

Gil accepted a teaching position at Juneau High School for the 1943 school year and was a mainstay there until his retirement in 1972. He taught chemistry, physics, and math. But in Alaska, as in North Dakota, teachers were expected to do more than teach. Gil coached basketball, kept score at games, built and supervised an indoor rifle range and organized a photography club, all extracurricular and gratis.

In addition to raising their son, “Doc,” Dot worked as a recording clerk for the Territorial Legislature and later as a secretary for Governor Ernest Gruening. She belonged to a vanishing-perhaps vanished-breed of secretary. She took dictation at her typewriter, often finishing an error-free letter by the end of the dictation. After the Eides spent a year in New York and Oregon on a Ford Foundation Scholarship, Dot accepted a position with the Juneau School District, working there for 19 years before retiring in 1973.

The salaries for teachers were never enough, and Gil worked summers while in Wrangell and Juneau. One of his summer jobs was collecting and transporting salmon caught in the huge commercial fish traps then legal in Southeast. Another summer job was mining asbestos along the Kobuk River in northern Alaska.

In 1956, the Eides moved into a house at 3820 Glacier Highway that would remain home until the fall of 1999. In 1956, neither Egan Drive nor Twin Lakes existed. Then the highest tides of Gastineau Channel lapped against the only road connecting downtown Juneau with the Mendenhall Valley, a situation that didn’t change for another sixteen years.

After World War II in Juneau, the Territorial Sportsmen grew out of the old Territorial Guard. “It just seemed to happen,” said Gil. “There was a crowd of us in the guard that drilled together, shot together and were generally interested in doing some public good.” The Territorial Sportsmen incorporated in 1945, but really galvanized around the first Salmon Derby in 1947, a very modest affair compared to the extravaganza in which it was to grow. Gil’s duties that first year were to ensure that boats didn’t turn in fish after the deadline.

Gil was one of many Sportsmen who built the popular tram from Oliver’s Inlet to Seymour Canal. Gil was particularly proud of a project by the Sportsmen to transplant moose into the Berner’s Bay drainage. In August, 1958, fifteen moose calves were transplanted by barge from Juneau and up the Antler River. In 1960, another six moose were transplanted.

At the Governor’s Awards Banquet in 1969, Gil was named Educator of the Year for his work in conservation education. The same year, Gil was awarded a Sportsmen scholarship for a summer program in conservation education at the University of Montana. When Gil retired from teaching in 1972, after a total of 43 years of classroom service, the Territorial Sportsmen honored him with a retirement dinner. After retirement, Gil stayed busy maintaining his house and its grounds.

By 1999, Dot’s health had failed considerably, and Gil had slowed noticeably, but he continued to smoke fish for close friends and to kibitz construction in the neighborhood. And Gil loved to patrol the malls and to eat at Tabby’s. He was always on the lookout for familiar faces and was quick to ask everyone who they were and from where did they hail. If they were Southeasterners, he would ask about parents and grandparents. Almost invariably he would find a connection to one of his many former students. In the fall of 1999, with neither Gil nor Dot in good health, they decided to move to the Seattle area to be closer to their son, Doc (the seldom used name which is printed on his birth certificate is Richard), and his family.

Doc, born in 1945 in Juneau, grew up playing basketball and baseball, graduating from Juneau High School in 1964 before moving on to the University of Montana. He began a flying career with Alaska Airlines in 1969 and is still flying in 2001.

In 1971, Doc married Dolly Wheeler, a daughter of P.K. and Doris Wheeler of Ferndale, Washington. Dolly, after graduating from college, came to Juneau to work for Alaska Airlines.

A son, Duke, was born to Doc and Dolly in 1973, and a daughter, Dani in 1977. Both graduated from Central Washington University where each won four letters on the swim team and each was named team captain in their senior year.

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