Parks and Recreation Image


Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Varness, Ingvald Olaf

by Pat Fleek Varness
UID=1031


My husband, Ingvald Olaf Varness, and his twin sister Astrid, came into the world at St. Ann’s Hospital in Juneau, on January 19, 1926. Ing’s birth preceded Astrids’ by 28 minutes. Both twins weighed in at a little over six pounds each. There were not too many twins in Juneau at that time, so it was quite an event. Two years later, another little sister joined Ingvald and Astrid and her name was Kathy. She was born at home in Douglas. At that time, there was a ferry running between Douglas and Juneau, but the weather was real bad and the stork could not wait any longer.

Ingvald’s father was a fisherman and had his own boat. In 1930, the boat caught fire and blew up while on the grid. He then went to work at the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine as a bulldozer. His name was also Ingvald and he worked at the mine until his death from double pneumonia in 1934. Ing was only eight at the time of his father’s death and only had vague recollections of him. Ing’s mother fed and clothed the children by taking in boarders after his father died. They lived in a house at the foot of the trail going to Mt. Roberts. In 1936, his mother married John T. Holm. Ing always said that Ture was a wonderful stepfather and treated him like his own son. They were married two years and had a daughter name Kay and later another named Alice. Ing said that his school years were mostly spent day dreaming about hunting and fishing and the boat his pal, Ralph Mielke, and him were going to buy when they grew up. He said he went to Sunday School every Sunday and played the clarinet in the school band.

In 1942, the Japanese attacked the Aleutian Islands and his mother figured that was too close to home, so she left a note for Ture while he was out fishing. The note stated that she had sold the house and moved to Seattle, Washington. They went to Seattle on the M/V North Sea.

Ing and his sisters enrolled in school. Ing lasted six months. It was just too much of a change for him in the big city. He went to work for Boeing Aircraft as a parts man and then after a few months, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Ing’s schooling in the Coast Guard consisted of boot camp in Port Townsend, Washington; Advanced Seamanship at Catalina Island, California; and Gunnery School at San Diego, California. After Ing had completed his Coast Guard training, he was off to San Pedro, California, where he transferred to a patrol frigate. Ing spent the next year and a half at sea in the South Pacific until he was given a medical discharge on October 1945.

After being discharged, Ing went to school at Broadway High School and received his G.E.D. While attending school, all he could think of was returning to Juneau. Finally, he got his break and worked his way to Ketchikan on a halibut schooner. The captain dropped him there, because they were going to Kodiak and bypassing Juneau.

In Ketchikan, with twenty dollars in his pocket, he got a job with Nordby Supply Company. His job lasted only until he had enough money for a steerage ticket to Juneau on the M/V Baranof. After purchasing his ticket, Ing only had enough money for three or four meals. Upon arrival in Juneau, Ing was disappointed as he saw just a few familiar faces. He moved in with his Aunt and Uncle John and Sina Sonderland on Starr Hill
and then got a job driving for Royal Blue Cab Company, owned by Pauline and Bill Cady. Ing and I (Pat Fleek) met while he drove for Royal Blue Cab. I worked evenings at the Capitol Theater (where the Juneau-Douglas Little Theater is now).

We were married February 10, 1947. I was working for the Alaska Road Commission, Territory of Alaska, since we could not live on what Ing made driving cab. At that time, Ing made just fifty cents a fare. After Ing’s employment with Royal Blue Cab, he worked as a truck spotter for R.J. Sommer Construction Company, a halibut fisherman for one season, and eventually taking an apprenticeship as an electrician.

Ing loved being an electrician. Since Ing worked in construction, we had to move to Seattle in 1954, as there was no work in Juneau. While in Seattle, Ing worked for Beckstrom Electric and the University of Washington. We came back to Juneau in 1959. We left again in 1960, as there was no work in Juneau once again. Ing traveled to New York to work on the Worlds Fair. In 1963, Ing returned to Juneau to work as foreman and ultimately worked on the Federal Building, Bill Ray Center, the hospital, Lemon Creek Correctional Center and the Hilton Hotel. I joined him in 1964, and went to work for First National Bank of Anchorage.

Ing finally got the boat that he dreamt about for so many years. His pride and joy was a 21-foot Glasply that he bought from Herb Bonnett. Ing named the boat Ing and Ting which means nothing in Swedish. Ing spent many happy hours fishing on it and he didn’t care if he caught anything. A fish was always a bonus for Ing.

After working as an electrician for 36 years, an injury on the job eventually ended his career as an electrician. After Ing’s injury, he had to be retrained by Vocational Rehabilitation. Ing attended the University of Alaska Southeast, taking a variety of classes, and eventually got an accounting certificate. After his tenure at UAS, Ing worked for Lyles Hardware for a year as a sales clerk. We then retired and moved to Port Angeles. Shortly, thereafter, Ing was diagnosed with lung cancer. We lived there until 1988, when we returned to Juneau. He wanted to go back to Juneau to die. He died January 26, 1988 at home with family. Ing and I had a wonderful life together raising two sons and two daughters and eventually having 15 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.