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Estrada, William & Alethea (Perkins)

by Feliverto C. Estrada

I first remember arriving in Juneau in the late fall of 1941. This was out of necessity because my two older sisters had to go to school. Originally the plan was to settle in Pelican, but because the tent that my father had ordered did not arrive in time, the alternative was a move that took us to Juneau.

Our parents are William Estrada and Alethea Perkins Estrada. Our older sisters are Delia M. Mielke and Willow R. Ritter, both of Juneau; next in line is brother Theodore (Ted) of Cleveland, Tennessee, then myself, Feliverto C. and our youngest sister, Molly M. Kitka, of Sitka.

Our father migrated to Alaska shortly after the turn of the century and was working at the Treadwell Mine at the time of the cave-in. Due to the experience of working in the mines, (he had also worked in the Kennicott Copper Mine out of Cordova) he was no stranger to the Juneau area. He died May 4, 1971, in Sitka, Alaska and is buried in the Pioneer plot in Sitka.

Our mother, Ellen (Alethea) Perkins, was born in Camano, Washington in 1915, the daughter of William and Katie Perkins. She arrived in Ketchikan about five years later and grew up in Southeastern Alaska on a fishing boat. Her father trolled for king salmon and her family lived on the boat, moving around and following the fish. Her schooling amounted to on-board lessons “here and there” from her family and other fishing friends. Our mother, Ellen, married our father, William, also a fisherman, and they raised a family of five children at sea. In fact, our youngest sister, Molly, was born on board our FV Check in Khaz Bay, Alaska.

In 1942, we established ourselves at Elfin Cove, Alaska, and later, in the 1950’s we moved to our summer camp in Bingham Cove located on Yakobi Island. Our mother took in laundry from the fishermen, while our father trolled for salmon. During the winter months, they would go to Juneau and rent a place so we could go to school. Those months were also busy with boat repairs. Although life was tough at times, our mother said it was one of the best ways to raise a family that one could imagine. Very early, us kids became adept boatsmen. We would be sent ashore in a rowboat to get fresh water or supplies, but knew how to dress for the cold and were never distressed by it.

Before coming to Juneau, the family hung around Port Alexander with the rest of the fishing fleet, as our father was a troller and trollers have a tendency to follow the fish, which appeared to be traveling north. In Juneau, we stayed on our boat the Check, at the Small Boat Harbor and our two older sisters went to school in Juneau while our brother, myself and our younger sister stayed with our mother and father.

Although Willow was born in Juneau in 1934, we still did not settle there until 1941. Somehow our father managed to rent a house that belonged to a man named Holly Sanders, just across the Douglas Bridge, on the south side. We lived in that house for about nine years while attending the Douglas schools. Willow remembers when clear water came down Little Kowee Creek. We used to get our drinking water from that creek before houses were built above the road. Later, our father built a cabin on piling across the road on the north side of the Douglas Bridge. While not all of us were from Juneau in the beginning, with the exception of Molly, we all did eventually live in Juneau.

Delia was born in Wrangell in 1933. She married Glen Mielke in 1954, and currently lives in Juneau. The Mielke family lived where Grandmas’s Kitchen now stands. As a young man, Glen worked on Kendler’s dairy farm. He served with the military from 1950 to 1952. He worked for Cole and Paddock for three summers and in 1954 until 1970, worked for Pacific Northern Airlines, which later became Western Airlines, as a ramp foreman. From 1971 to 1973, he worked at the Auke Bay Laboratory. Following that, he embarked on what he loved the most. He fished commercially for 23 years, primarily on the Fairweather grounds on their FV Tarka. Although Delia devoted most of her career to being a homemaker, she was also part-time mate/deckhand and full-time cook while fishing. They have four children: Carl, Julie Orsi and Mark, all of Juneau, and Jansy Hansen of Haines, Alaska.

Willow was born in Juneau in 1934. She graduated from Douglas High School in 1954, when it was still independent of the Juneau school system. She married William Ritter in 1955. She has always lived in Juneau with the exception of a two year stint in Anchorage while her husband was in the U.S. Army. After returning to Juneau in 1957, they lived in a house on Tenth Street where First National Bank now sits. They raised three sons: Ronald J. Ritter, who was killed in 1984; Raymond (Ray) E. Ritter; and Richard (Rick) E. Ritter, both born in Juneau. Willow worked for the NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service for 29 years and retired in 1997.

Ted was born in Wrangell, in 1936, and came to Juneau in 1941. He went to grade school in Douglas, but graduated from Sheldon Jackson. Ted remembers when he was 14 years old and his Empire route took him to the end of North Douglas Road, which at the time ended at Eagle Creek. In 1961, he married Nedra Cunningham and they raised three children: Yvonne Sanford, currently of Mt. Vernon, Washington; Tina Sowers of Juneau; and Rocky Estrada of Angoon. Nedra died in 1976. In 1978, Ted married Juanita Alyea and is stepfather to her children: Michael Delez, of Juneau; Nita Cadic, of Lawrenceville, Georgia; and Chris Delez, of Boca Raton, Florida. Ted skippered several vessels in Southeast and Western Alaska, but his longest career was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when he was captain of the MV Curlew, serving in that capacity for 24 years. Ted moved to Cleveland, Tennessee after his retirement from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997.

Feliverto was born in Wrangell in 1937, and came to Juneau in 1941. He started his career skippering fishing vessels, then served in the U.S. Army at Fort Ord, California from 1960 to 1962. He moved to Sitka in 1966. In 1970, he married June Gwendolyn Taylor and they raised her three sons: Calvin Taylor, of Vancouver, Washington; Phillip Taylor, of Redmond, Oregon; and John Taylor. Feliverto worked for one year at the Police Academy and then became the Maintenance Supervisor at the Sitka Pioneer’s Home, from where he retired in May, 2000.

Molly was born in 1939 in Khaz Bay. She was registered at Kimshan Cove, which had been a gold mine town with a post office. She attended school in Douglas through the ninth grade and finished high school at Sheldon Jackson, in Sitka. She married Gilbert Kitka in 1957. Gil worked for the Federal government for thirty years and has been with SEARCH for the last eight. Molly worked part-time for the school district for many years as a substitute and a swimming instructor. She worked for the State for ten years as an audiologist technician. Beside volunteering in the community, she keeps busy with grandchildren, quilting and gardening. Molly and Gilbert have three children: Kenneth, of Seward, and Lesa Way and Erin Kitka, both of Sitka. Ken has four sons and makes his living as an artist and carpenter. Lesa and husband Jim have a construction business that Lesa manages and they are raising four children. Erin is a carpenter, working for Southeast Regional Health Consortium, and is an avid hunter and fisherman. He and his wife Cindy have two children.

In 1958, after the children were grown, our mother, Alethea, left Juneau. She later married Harry White in Anacortes, Washington. She was widowed in 1969. Widowhood created a necessity to find employment and she went to work in a local cannery. A few years later she married Clyde Houk and they retired to Ewan, Washington, for the dry climate. She played the guitar, mandolin, organ, accordion and the Hawaiian guitar. In 1989, she was widowed once again and moved back to Anacortes. In 1998 she moved to Sitka, Alaska to be near her family.

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