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Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Winn, William A.

by Anita and Henry Wilde

Bill Winn was also known as the “Guru” of Starr Hill (even though he lived below Starr Hill on East Street). He was the son of Grover Winn, one of Juneau’s earliest famous attorneys who was in the first graduating class of Juneau High School. (Ethlyn Ebner was the only other graduate of that class.) Another relative was the famous Juneau lawyer Mildred Hermann, who also left her mark on this city. Bill was born at St. Ann’s Hospital on October 27, 1917. His neighbor on East Street, Dr. Dawes, delivered him and his two sisters, Barbara (Roberts) and Susy (Hermann.) Bill graduated from Juneau High School in 1935, with other Juneau notables such as Anabel Simpson (Connor), Carol Robertson (Eastaugh) and Wallis George. He attended Whitman College, the Universities of Washington and Iowa and served in the U.S. Army during WW II, mostly in the Arctic. Bill settled in Juneau in the old Grover Winn house at 513 East Street which had remained pretty much the same as when Grover built it in the very early 1900’s. He became an art critic and dealer, promoted many young Juneau painters to fame, such as the DeRoux brothers, and was a personal friend of Ilya Bolotowsky who started out painting Alaska Eskimos and later became famous in New York.

Bill had many skills and charms. He was widely read, a great story teller, knew the latest happenings in town and was an outstanding cook. Many of Juneau’s matrons learned real cooking from him and his dinner parties were famous. Bill traveled extensively in Europe and Central America and always brought some art back home. He followed the Henry and Anita Wilde family around the world during their tours abroad and lived with them in Beirut, Lebanon, for a full three months while visiting all the historical sites in the Middle East.

Bill was a heavy smoker and cancer, as well as emphysema, got to him eventually. He died at his home, as he had wished, on October 18, 1991, having had one last party at his house just a few days previously. His main worry at that time was that he should be buried not next to, but above his uncle at Evergreen Cemetery. This was done according to his wish. Pallbearers were Bill Corbus, Don Beard, Dan and Ken DeRoux and Elton Engstrom. A post-funeral party was held in his living room, surrounding his favorite empty rocking chair, with champagne and good French wine as he had wished. Present were his pallbearers and Tom Stewart, the Eastaughs, Alan Engstrom, Anita Wilde, George Federoff, the Rogers and the Ackleys.

His close friend Betty Annis was out of town but sent the following letter to be read at the party:

“I loved Bill, when I was not furious with him. He taught me to cook, and gave me greater understanding of art, literature and music. He also helped me immeasurably during a desperate time in my life. I join all his friends in deep reluctance to let this wittiest of men leave.”

Bill Corbus then offered the final toast to William A. Winn, “Here’s to Bill, that informed, independent always witty and occasionally irascible and cynical friend - perhaps the only one we have known who, at least in his
later years, made his living wearing out two sturdy rocking chairs by his front window, with a telephone at his elbow; our font of knowledge of local people and happenings, past and present. Bill, may your soul ever rock gently and in peace.”

by Betsy Roberts Swanson

Barbara Winn Roberts was born at St. Ann’s Hospital in Juneau on February 9, 1916. Her parents were Grover and Bess Winn and their first home was at Second and Franklin. Her great uncles carried her mother to the hospital on a stretcher, over ice and snow.

Barbara’s father, Grover Cleveland Winn, came to Juneau around 1893. His father, William Winn or the “Colonel” and his brothers opened the Opera House, which was a saloon. William Winn’s first wife was Polly Milbourn and after she passed away, William married her sister Anna. William built two houses on Second Street. William died at a young age and Anna, his widow, built more houses with her inheritance. She lived on the income from the rentals and later opened a small millinery shop.

Barbara’s mother, Bess Anderson Winn, was from an early pioneer family who traveled over the Oregon Trail and settled in the Walla Walla area near the town of Waitsburg, Washington. Bess met her husband Grover at the University of Washington. Grover was in the first graduating class of Juneau High School in 1904. Grover attended the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in law. Bess and Grover married and moved back to Juneau. Barbara had a younger sister Susie Winn Hermann, who is deceased, and a brother William Winn, who lived in Juneau until he died in 1991. When the Winn children were young, Barbara and her brother Bill lived near the funeral home on Second and Gold. They went to all of the funerals until the undertaker asked Bess Winn to keep her children at home! Barbara’s parents are buried in the family plot in the Evergreen Cemetery.

One of the houses in which Barbara lived was on Fifth and East Streets. She remembers playing on Starr Hill, Mt. Roberts and exploring the Basin Road and the road to Perseverance. Barbara used to hunt the Basin with Sunny Lund and Joe McLean. Once, Sunny shot a cinnamon bun out of Joe’s hand, just to see if he could do it...and he did. Barbara spent her young adult years hiking the mountains around Juneau-Sheep Creek, Mt. Roberts and Mt. Jumbo. She skied on Douglas Island winning the downhill competition and cross country. In high school, Barbara played on the basketball team that brought home the trophy for the Southeast Alaska region. She was also an avid reader and a member of Rainbow Girls. Her mother, Bess, had a Stikine River Bear Dog. This type of dog would bite a bear in the leg tendon and cripple it. It was a small dog with long hair. When the first one died, she went to Wrangell, up the Stikine River and purchased another Bear Dog.

President Warren Harding came through Juneau on his way north to dedicate the Alaska Railroad. The Governor had a reception at his home for the President and all of the school kids were invited to file through the mansion and shake the President’s hand. Barbara’s brother Bill filed through many, many times until Mrs. Harding noticed him and he was sent back to school.

Barbara still sees some, and remembers a lot, of her friends from Juneau - Jim Pegues, Sunny Lund, Joe McLean, Jeannie Faulkner Lowe, Missy Mullin, Maxine Lund, Mary Vanderleest, Jeannie Vanderleest, Carol Robertson, Duncan Robertson, the Simpkin girls and many others.

Barbara graduated from Juneau High School in 1934. She attended the University of Washington and the University of Alaska. She also worked in the Governor’s office helping the pioneers register for Social Security. Father Kashevaroff from the Territorial Museum helped her with the identification of the pioneers.

Barbara Winn married Bill Roberts in November 1938. He was a mining engineer, which took them to many parts of the world including Nicaragua, Telluride, Colorado, Idaho and Washington. Barbara returned to school and received a Master’s of English/Education from Whitworth University. She taught for the Spokane Public Schools until she was 70 years old. She has three daughters, Betsy Swanson (Seattle), Kitty Kennedy (Spokane), Jeannie Roberts (Seattle) and two sons, Bruce (Los Gatos, California) and Jay (Coronado, California). She has twelve grandchildren and two great grandsons.

Barbara has lived in Spokane for the past fifty years. She enjoys spending her summers at her lake cottage at Priest Lake in northern Idaho because it reminds her so much of the beauty of Southeastern Alaska.

William Winn cooking his favorite dish with Pamela Wilde looking on, ca. 1964.