Parks and Recreation Image


Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Williams, Dean and Edna

by Dean Williams
UID=780


Both Deanís father, Jason and his mother, Mae Williams, grew up in Wisconsin where they graduated from the University in Madison. Their parents were born in Wales and then moved to Wisconsin. Later, Mae became a teacher and Jason majored in forestry. From Wisconsin, Mae and Jason moved to Washington State. Dean Williams was born on November 9, 1917, in Sumas, Washington. When he was three months old, his parents brought him to Craig, Alaska. Deanís father, Jason (Jay) Williams was on the Canadian Boundary Survey and later was sent to Alaska by the U.S. Forest Service where he spent 42 years cruising timber all over Alaska, but mostly in Southeast. Later in this period, he was also assigned the job of doing extensive research on brown bear. This included the first ever bear census on Admiralty Island. The research covered both spring and fall periods when the most concentrations of bear take place.

During his Forest Service years, Jay used the Ranger boats and climbed mountains in connection with his timber reconnaissance. He wrote a book on his life entitled, ďAlaskan AdventureĒ which has been published in four languages and was used in several European universities as a textbook on Alaska history. When Jason was retired, he was appointed by Governor Ernest Gruening to the position of Adjutant General of the Territorial Guard during World War II.

In 1966, a mountain 15 miles southeast of Juneau in the Taku Inlet area was named Williams Mountain. It is visible from the Dean Williams family home. In 1967, Dean and son Gordy climbed the mountain and placed an American flag at its top.

Deanís brother Donald graduated from the Juneau High School and later attended art schools in Minnesota. During World War II, Donald enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in the Pacific area.

As a young boy, Dean spent a lot of time in the outdoors with his father. He graduated from the Juneau High School in 1936, and attended radio school in Seattle. His interest in radio began in 1931, when he became the youngest licensed radio amateur in the Territory. In 1937, he enlisted in the Army at Chilkoot Barracks in Haines and was immediately assigned to the Alaska Communications System to work at the Twelfth Street Transmitting Station. This was followed by the Receiving Station at Seven Mile on Glacier Highway. At this point, his code operating skills qualified him to move into the Operating Headquarters on the ground floor of the Federal Building (now the Capitol). During World War II, he was stationed at Nome and in the Aleutian Islands on Attu and Adak with the ACS, which was a part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Dean also gave ski instruction to Army personnel at Nome, Attu and Adak.

Dean married Edna Almquist in November 1943, at the Northern Light Presbyterian Church on Fourth Street. The wedding reception was held in the Baranof Hotel Gold Room. After the war, they moved into their own house at 1401 Martin Road in Juneau and that has been their home ever since. Their first baby, Janice, arrived in 1947, and was joined by a brother, Gordon, in 1951. Both children attended the Juneau school system and went to universities in the Lower 48.

Amateur radio has been one of Deanís hobbies since 1931, and friendships have developed with fellow amateurs in many parts of the world, which has resulted in actual visits to several countries. Also, many of these contacts have visited Alaska. After Deanís Army discharge in 1945, he returned to Juneau and worked for a sporting goods store owned by Rod Darnell. He also skippered a charter boat around Southeast Alaska for a year.

In 1947, he started working for Pan American World Airways where he became a traffic supervisor working out of a small terminal building at the Juneau Airport. Pan-Am was then using the DC-3 and DC-4, followed later by the DC-6, Stratocruiser and finally the Boeing 707 jets in 1962. His airline experience actually started at the age of 14 when he worked as a ramp helper for Alec Holden with Marine Airways.

With his father, Jason, Dean took the first bear pictures in Pack Creek on Admiralty Island and helped establish the first trail and observatory platforms for photographers in that area. While working for Pan-Am, he followed in his fatherís footsteps and became an Alaska Big Game Guide for bear and goat hunting with a specialty in bear photography. During his guiding days, he established a small campsite at Pack Creek where his clients successfully obtained excellent movies and still pictures of brown bear in the area.

In 1947, he guided Juan Trippe, the president and founder of that great airline, Pan American, on a bear hunt aboard a 75-foot yacht, into the bays on Admiralty Island. Mr. Trippe also brought along John Gates, first vice president of Pan-Am, who was an avid big game hunter. The hunt turned out to be very successful with John Gates bagging a large brown bear in Pybus Bay. During the hunt, Mr. Trippe asked Dean if he would like to research a summer ski area on the Juneau Icefield. This was accomplished during the following summer when Dean joined the Juneau Icefield Research Project. In 1949, the first east-west crossing of the Juneau Icefield on skis was made by Dean, Tony Thomas and Dr. Ted Haley. This crossing started at the Devilís Paw Mountain on the Alaska-Canada border and ended at Salmon Creek on Glacier Highway.

Pan American World Airways ceased operations into Juneau in 1965. Dean worked as manager of the Juneau station for Cordova Airlines for two years until they merged with Alaska Airlines. He then worked for Western Airlines for two years. Following this employment he and Bill Bernhardt, a pilot with Alaska Coastal Airlines, started an airline, Southeast Skyways. Based at the Seadrome in downtown Juneau, the present location of Merchantís Wharf, Southeast Skyways took over all the floatplane activity formerly handled by Alaska Coastal Airlines. This included providing scheduled service to Hoonah, Tenakee, Angoon, Pelican, Elfin Cove, Gustavus, Bartlett Cove, Hawk Inlet, Kake, Chatham Cannery and Funter Bay.

Deanís experiences on the Juneau Icefield in 1949, were a result of his connection with the Juneau Icefield Research program, headed by Dr. Maynard Miller. Dean spent two months at various locations on the icefield and helped in establishing radio communication and construction activity at the camps. In 1949, he realized the huge attraction this glacier region had to large numbers of tourists from all over the world. Southeast Skyways commenced flightseeing in the spring of 1969, which became an immediate attraction for tourists visiting Alaska.

In this connection, Dean and Edna promoted flightseeing and many other Southeast Alaska attractions while taking winter trips on the P and O Cruise Lines and later by plane and station wagon, by showing their movie and slide shows and passing out promotional information. Showings were held on board cruise ships, and at Rotary Clubs, in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, the Grand Caymans, Costa Rica and the Christmas Islands, and most of the western United States. The visitor industry has been an integral part of Dean and Ednaís life.

Throughout his airline career, Dean was active in city government. He was chairman of the Parks and Recreation committee which developed many large improvements. The largest effort focused on the Evergreen Bowl, later named Cope Park, which included the building of the ballpark, picnic area, improved tennis courts and the outdoor swimming pool.

Dean was chairman for the first Docks and Harbors Committee which did the original planning to improve the facilities for the arrival of large cruise ships to Juneau. He also was an active member of the Tourism Advisory Board during Governor Walter Hickelís first term. Dean was a member on various committees of the first Alaska Visitors Association and Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau and attended meetings throughout the State and in Yukon Territory, Canada.

Skiing has been a great part of the Williamsí family life. Dean started in 1937, and began racing shortly afterward. He was selected to join the Sun Valley Ski Patrol in Idaho in 1940, where he established wonderful contacts with Austrian ski instructors, some of which came to Alaska and skied with Dean on the upper slopes of Mt. Roberts. Dean instructed skiing for 30 years and taught many students how to ski at the Dan Moller Ski area on Douglas Island, including aunts, uncles and grandfather of U.S. Champion Hilary Lindh. He also ran Deanís Ski-In which rented and sold ski equipment and installed ski bindings. He raced at both Arctic Valley and Alyeska ski resorts for the Juneau Ski club and later at the International World Airlines Championships against teams from all the large airlines of the world. In March 1967, Dean placed first at Alyeska on the Pan-Am team against a strong contingent of the best airline competitors from the U.S. and foreign teams.

After Dean retired from the airlines, he resumed playing tennis. In 1960, he played at stateside tournaments, including the Indoor Nationals in Seattle. This activity has been carried on every year since and he has received National Senior Rankings in age groups of 60-65, 65-70, 70-75, 75-80, 80-85 and is now looking forward to age group 85-90.

Dean has won four Silver and four Gold medals in the California Senior Olympics. A charter member of the Juneau Racquet Club, he has won numerous awards at the Club since its founding.

After 82 years of living in Alaska, Dean still feels that this has been the greatest place to have spent a life.