by Jan Ashby McIlroy
My parents came to Alaska; my dad, Randall Ashby, from Washington State and my mother, Katharyn Ingram, from Missouri. Dad came in 1908 and brought his mother and little brother with him. He already had four married sisters in Valdez. He came to work for his brother-in-law who had a store in Valdez. My mother came in 1910, to visit her brother, Jack Ingram, who was the superintendent of the Richardson Trail from Valdez to Fairbanks. My mother and dad met at the Saturday dance that she had attended with my uncle and aunt. My dad asked her to dance and told her that Jack had her come to Valdez to meet him. She replied, no, she was up here until August when she was going back to Kansas City to be married. The marriage took place in August, but in Valdez, not Kansas City, and she didn’t go back until 1917 when she took my two brothers on a trip.
In 1922, my dad passed away at Mayo Brothers in Rochester, Minn. In 1924, my mother married George Fawcett. My brother, Harris, was born in 1911, went to school in Valdez and to the “Farthest North College,” in Fairbanks for two years and graduated from the U. of Nevada in May 1931 with a degree in Mining Engineering. He married a teacher in Valdez and she talked him into moving Outside. He passed away in 1971 in Arizona, a mining engineer with the Forest Serv.
My brother George, born in 1914, lived in Valdez until 1948, when he and his wife, Kathy, bought Copper Center Roadhouse from the Florence Baines estate. The tour industry said he should change the name as the term “roadhouse” had a different connotation Outside, so it is the Copper Center Lodge and is still operated by his son, Randall, and his wife, Lisa. George passed away in 1979, and his widow, Kathy, is a resident in the Anchorage Pioneers Home.
I was born in Valdez in 1920 and lived in Alaska for 66 years. I married Bill McIlroy in Cordova in 1941, one week after Pearl Harbor. Bill had come to Alaska in 1939 to join his dad, Jack McIlroy, who had been here a couple years. He was from Victoria, B.C. Jobs for young men were scarce and he liked the sound of “Alaska.” Bill’s dad wanted to go to Anchorage but after they had been in Valdez a few days, Bill really liked it and as he told me later, it was the first town he had seen that wasn’t clinging to mountainsides, it was level.
Bill enlisted in the Canadian Navy and was on a mine sweeper in the English Channel. I waited for him in Victoria, B.C., when our daughter Pat was born in 1943. She and I came back to Valdez in 1944 and I went to work for Pop, George Fawcett, in the store and my mother looked after Pat. After Bill “won the war for the Canadians,” he came back to Valdez. On our sixth anniversary in 1947, our son, Mike, was born in Valdez.
In 1956, Bill was transferred to Anchorage by Garrison Fast Freight and we lived there for six years. But our hearts were always in Valdez and in 1962 we moved back and opened our own business, Valdez- Copper Valley Lines. At the same time, I was appointed Deputy Magistrate, and we were very busy. The 1964 earthquake put us out of business in five minutes. That is when we moved to Juneau and both went to work for the State. Bill with Highways, and I was with Health & Welfare, and later with the Dept. of Labor. We enjoyed
the 22 years we lived in Juneau.
Bill and I moved to Sequim, Wash. so that he could play golf and he did! Cancer reared its ugly head and it won the battle in 1995. I make an annual trip to visit Pat and we go down to Valdez to see old friends. I get to Juneau when I can and keep up my Pioneer Auxiliary connection. Bill was the Grand President in 1982 and considered it a privilege to be a Pioneer.