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Kendler, Joseph & Matilda

by Mildred Kendler Steen and Joe Kendler, Jr.

Joseph A. Kendler was born in Saalbach, Austria, in 1886, and Mathile was born in 1899, in Weinheim, Germany. Joseph arrived in the United States in 1913, to join his brother John in Washington State. Both worked in dairy farms. Joseph came to Juneau in 1917, in response to an advertisement for a milker and went to work for Lee Smith of the Juneau Dairy. Sometime during the first year, Mr. Smith had Joseph take over the Douglas Dairy for owed back wages.

In 1921, Joseph returned to Austria for a visit and on his return met Matilda, 21 years old, on the ship. She was going to Chicago as a domestic-fare paid by a family there. Joseph eventually paid the fare and she came to Douglas where they were married by Judge Felix Gray in 1923, in the Feusi’s home where Mamie Feusi Jensen was maid of honor. About that time, they purchased the Knutson Ranch in Mendenhall Valley near Jordan Creek, approximately 500 acres, and started the Alaska Dairy. The first year they delivered milk to Juneau with horses, nine and a half miles each way. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ford was a life saver, they had a truck to make deliveries.

Their daughter Mildred Kendler was born in Juneau in 1924, and was educated in the Juneau grade and high schools. She attended the U. of Alaska in Fairbanks for one year and would have continued but the young men were being taken into the service. She had no desire to go to an all girl school! She returned to Juneau and was hired by Alaska Communications System and worked there over two years. At that time, she met her husband who was in the Signal Corps and attached to ACS. Mildred was married in Juneau in 1944, and following the end of the war they moved to Seattle as her husband was from there. They have continued to live in Seattle where they had three children and now have seven grandchildren.

Their son Joe Jr., was born in Juneau in 1925, and went through the Juneau school system graduating in 1943. He entered the service in 1944, and was released in 1946. He attended flight school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Dave Brown and they both started flying for Alaska Coastal Airlines in Juneau in 1949. Joe flew for ACA for 19 years and after the company merged with Alaska Air, flew another 18 years, retiring in 1985. Joe soloed off the Juneau Airport in 1947, in a U-3 Cub and his final landing was in a 727 jet at the Juneau Airport approximately the same touchdown area only did better on the last touchdown. Joe Jr., has two daughters both residing on Douglas Island: Debra Baxter with two sons and Sandra Spickler with two sons also. After retirement, Joe Jr. lived in Pierce County, Washington, sold out and currently lives in Sun City West, Arizona, with wife Beverly Powers, also from a pioneer Juneau family.

As the years rolled by, Joseph sold 22 acres of land in 1935, to Pacific Alaska Airways, a subsidiary of PAA, and the first airport was built. That part of the runway is now the old taxiway at the Juneau Airport. Also at that time, the four major dairymen (Maier, Danner, Smith and Kendler) formed the Juneau Dairies Creamery that changed the workload for all. Joseph stayed in the business until 1951, and retired and left the area in 1964, after selling his land.

They gradually retired from the dairy business and took up other pursuits such as Joseph and son raising ten acres of potatoes. Matilda utilized the cow barn for raising laying hens and sold them for $1 a dozen and the stores sold them for $1.25. She had Parmenter Red Hens who lay brown eggs and she couldn’t keep up with the demand for fresh eggs. Matilda also taught sewing classes for the Community College and had been very active in the 4-H boy’s activities earlier. They were both hard working people, including their retirement years. They lived in the Seattle area and Joseph passed away in 1967, and Matilda in 1988. They had lived in the Juneau area for 49 years.

Joe and Mathilde Kendler.

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