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Metcalfe, Vernon W.

by Nadine Price

Vernon W. Metcalfe was born in Olympia, Washington, in 1892, and grew up in Canada. Margaret Lynn, his future wife, was born in Kansas in 1896. Her family moved to Wenatchee, Washington, in 1912, and the Metcalfe family moved there at about the same time. Vernon W. and Margaret met soon after World War I and married in 1922. They had two children, Vernon M. (Vern), born in 1923, and Nadine, born in 1926. Margaret Metcalfe died of tuberculosis in 1937.

Cecil Metcalfe, Vernon’s brother, lived in Juneau for many years and worked at Rice and Ahlers, a heating and sheet metal business. In 1940, he moved to Anchorage, leaving a job opening at Rice and Ahlers that was offered to Vernon W. After consulting with his children (who were ecstatic over the chance to live in Alaska), he accepted the job and in the spring of 1941, the family boarded the SS Princess Charlotte in Vancouver, B.C.

The trip was an exciting first for many on board and the ship made many stops along the way, including Taku Glacier. All three Metcalfes fell in love with Juneau, which had a population then of about 6,000, and they remained in Alaska the rest of their lives.

Vernon W. worked at Rice and Ahlers until 1944, when he opened his own shop, Metcalfe Sheet Metal. He belonged to the Elks and Moose Clubs. Vernon W., known to many as “Pop” Metcalfe, was especially helpful to young people, and returning veterans in particular, helping them install their furnaces. He did work on the Catholic Church, and he and his son Vern installed the copper “onion” dome on top of the Russian Orthodox Church. After closing his shop in the mid- 1950’s, Vernon W. worked a session for the Territorial Legislature. During retirement, he lived for a period in Tenakee. He died at the Palmer Pioneer Home in 1976, at the age of 84.

Except for military service, Vernon M. never left Alaska. In 1947, Vern, as he was known to almost everyone, married Patricia (Pat) McAlister, a member of an Alaska pioneer family. The McAlister family history is in a separate section. They had nine children: Vernon Jr. (Mac), Kimberly, Peter, Patrice (Tissy), Kathleen (Teeny), James (Jake), John, Mark and Heather, seven of whom still reside in Alaska.

Vern was active in Democratic Party politics throughout his life and in 1951, and again in 1955, was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives. He was a member of the VFW, the National Guard, the Rotary and the Lions Club and was an honorary member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood.

Shortly after he returned to Juneau following WWII, Vern began broadcasting high school basketball games. In 1948, he broadcast the first Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, held annually ever since. He became known as the “Voice of the Gold Medal” and was inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame in 1987. After working at Metcalfe Sheet Metal for several years, Vern followed his first love, journalism, working at the Daily Alaska Empire and the old weekly, the Juneau Independent. He also worked for KINY and KJNO radio stations. Vern was one of the first television news anchors in Juneau, working for many years at KINY-TV. Vern’s wife, Pat, died in 1983, at the age of 57 and he passed away in 1989, at the age of 65.

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