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Gordon, Vera (Willer) (Robbins)

by Vera Gordon

Vera was born in 1920, in Glasgow, Montana, to John and Ruby (Grinolds) Willer. Her husband, Terrence Robbins, working for the Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation in Wyoming, was transferred to the Juneau Office regarding hydroelectric surveys for the Eklutna project near Anchorage. He came up in August 1949, and the two children and Vera followed in November with a promise of one year in Alaska and a return to the “Lower 48.” Our first trip “out” came in 1952 and only on vacation. Must admit when we returned, I could hardly wait for the ship Denali to dock and we would be HOME. No unusual adventure getting to Alaska except for usual nervousness of a first flight and having to be brave because of two small children.

Terrence worked for the Bureau for a couple years and then went to work for Ryall Engineering and we moved to Fairbanks for a very short time and returned to Juneau. Upon return, we both worked for the Alaska Road Commission for several years. Terrence transferred to the Bureau of Land Management and I went to work for the Territorial Alaska Highway and Public Buildings. With Statehood, it became Alaska Public Works and I continued as secretary to the Commissioner until 1967.

In 1956, we had the devastating news that our daughter, Connie, had osteosarcoma in her right arm and the prognosis was not good. However, I am happy to report that she did recover and, although she lost her arm, she is a survivor (married, two children and a grandmother now). In 1958, we were blessed with the birth of a daughter, Terri, who is now teaching in Ketchikan. In November 1963, Terrence and two friends, Erland Pearson and Herbert Hakala, were going for their annual deer hunt and were lost at sea between Auke Bay and Barlow Cove.

I was remarried in 1967, to Alfred Gordon. Al died of cancer in 1982. He worked for the Dept. of Highways, Dept. of Economic Development and with the Dept. of Labor as Assistant Director of the Bureau of Labor Standards. Al had two children from a previous marriage who live in the Portland area.

After a couple years of free-lance secretarial work and having a candle shop—teaching, crafting and retail—went to work in 1974, as Deputy Clerk in charge of the Juneau Office of the U.S. District Court. I retired from that position in 1986.

I always enjoyed my life in Juneau. It has always been cosmopolitan—rich in talent, art, drama and music. I was active in many organizations: Women of the Moose, Soroptimists, Professional Secretaries, Widowed Persons Service, Pioneers of Alaska, Alaska Yukon Pioneers, Hospital Guild, Juneau Yacht Club, Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau (member and volunteer), and Chamber of Commerce. I belonged to the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

My son, Dale (Mickey), with his wife June, two children and two grandchildren, live in Ketchikan. He and June are both retired from state employment. They have a charter boat business.

Al and I were partners with Rudy and Judy Ripley in a cabin up the Taku River. Spent many happy and sometimes exciting weekends or more up there. I sold my half to the Ripleys when I moved to Washington. I moved to Kent, Washington, in 1996. Much as I hated to leave Juneau, none of my family lived there anymore. They come to the Seattle area for medical and usually this direction for vacations, so I see them more often now than while in Juneau. Also, my friends come through here, so get to visit with them, too. This area is not known for its lack of rain, but weather is milder. Plus, my daughter, Connie, lives only 20 minutes away!

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