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King, Jim & Mary Lou (Neville)

by Jim King

James Gore “Jim” King was born in Portland, Maine, in 1927, where his father was a writer for the Portland Evening News, Ernest Gruening, Editor. He grew up in various parts of New England and rural New York. He had a hitch in the Marine Corps and a year of college at Harvard before joining a high school buddy driving an old truck to Fairbanks in 1949.

Jim completed two years of college at the University in Fairbanks before being employed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Alaska Game Commission at that time). During the next 33 years he served as an Enforcement Agent, U.S. Game Management Agent, Refuge Manager, wildlife biologist and Supervisor of Alaska Waterfowl investigations. He learned to fly in Fairbanks and flew as a government wildlife pilot for 30 years. He spent three semesters at Washington State College, 1957-58, where he finally earned a BS degree in Wildlife Management.

In 1959, while in Juneau, he was invited to supper by his supervisor Ray Woolford. Ray’s wife Mary invited one of her co-workers, Mary Lou Neville, to supper as well. Mary Lou was born in Medford, Oregon, in 1929. She grew up mostly on a small farm near Prospect on the road to Crater Lake National Park. Her family lived for a few years in Missouri where she graduated from high school and college with an education degree. She taught one year in Iowa then returned to Oregon where she taught at the Phoenix High School. Mary Lou flew to Juneau in 1958, where she found a job in the Department of Education.

Jim and Mary Lou were married in the Mormon Church in Juneau in 1961. They spent their first summer in Fort Yukon eight miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the area where Jim was doing a waterfowl study. Mary Lou’s interest in the flowers and berries of the Boreal Forest and the successful garden she produced in Fort Yukon helped her form some lasting friendships there.

Daughters Sara (January 5) and Laura (December 5) were born in Fairbanks eleven months apart in 1962, on days when the temperature never rose to 50 degrees below zero. In 1964, Jim had the chance for a transfer to Juneau. Housing was tight that fall and of course they wanted a nice place on the beach. Luck intervened when the old homestead house on Sunny Point owned by Dr. and Mrs. Joe Reiderer turned up for sale. This was the house built by Henry Hendrickson in 1929.

Jim retired from government service in 1983. He continues wildlife work part time with various organizations doing bird surveys as a copilot now. Jim developed some ponds and fenced enclosures to keep geese and swans at Sunny Point. Henry Hendrickson’s old mink pen was just the thing for keeping the debilitated eagles periodically turned over to the FWS. The urge to live in a wildlife refuge environment could thus be satisfied virtually in the center of Juneau.

Son James was born in 1967, about the time the girls were heading for school. His first words to visitors were advisory, “goose bite.” As the King kids got older, Mary Lou became interested in the fledgling, springtime Seaweek program at Auke Bay School and became its volunteer coordinator. Seaweek caught on and she was able to bring it to the rest of Juneau grade schools. Her Seaweek interest lead her to locating and clearing little known public access trails, including Outer Point Trail, for the purpose of getting school classes to the beaches. This in turn led her to write little guides to several of Juneau’s trails and parks and eventually to self-publishing her popular book, 90 Short Walks Around Juneau, that sold 5,000 copies in its first decade and has recently been revised and reprinted.

Jim’s work with parks and Mary Lou’s work with trails complemented each other and they had a lot to do with the wonderful park and trail complex that Juneau residents revere today. Their interests have been reflected through their son James who went off and got a degree in Forest Recreation and an advanced degree in Landscape Architecture. James returned to Juneau and became the first manager of the nonprofit corporation for managing Juneau trails, namely Trail Mix.

James and his wife Christine and their two daughters (Keyaira and Brittany) now live next door on Sunny Point. Sara and husband, Terry McDaniel, an Alaska Airline pilot, live in Gig Harbor, Washington, with their three children (Benjamin, Patrick, Emily). Laura and her husband, Brian Ekins, a computer engineer, live in Portland, Oregon, also with three children (Elizabeth, Megan, Brandon). They all enjoy coming to Sunny Point for vacations where tree swings, tide flats, woods, trails and other Juneau features are exciting attractions. Their relationship to Juneau remains strong.

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