by Renee Guerin Blood, granddaughter
Bill Fromholz was born in Germany in 1891, and died in a Seattle hospital in 1952. He came from a shipbuilding family in Hamburg. When he was fourteen he ran away from a Prussian military school and stowed away on one of his uncle’s ships and worked his way around the world.
Bill was an adventurer who had various jobs in South America, South Africa, and Australia. He came to Alaska originally to mine and was a friend of my maternal grandfather, Eckley Coxe Guerin. Bill became a citizen in 1932, and worked for the US Forest Service until his death. In 1935, he married my widowed grandmother and was the only grandfather I ever knew.
Bill Fromholz was chief foreman for the CCC program during the depression and designed and supervised the construction of recreation cabins and trails throughout the Tongass. In 1938, he built a large log and rock cabin for the family, located at what is now Twin Lakes. He helped raise me there and was adored by all of us. He died in 1952, from a virus that doctors believe had lain dormant in his system since his years in South Africa. It resurfaced when he caught a common cold.
Shortly after he died, a representative from a Canadian mining company came to Juneau looking for Bill Fromholz. He told us that years before he settled in Alaska, Bill was guiding a mining engineer who was staking claims when that miner became injured. Bill nursed him, carried him out of the bush and saved his life. The Canadian mine was paying off big in the 1950’s, and that miner wanted to thank Bill by presenting his family with shares. We had never heard the story. Grandmother told me that “Grampie” was still taking care of me, because some of those shares helped pay for a lot of theatre training. My grandfather always promised to show me Australia when I graduated from high school. Unfortunately, he died before then, but in 1963, when I had the chance to star in the Australian production of The Sound of Music, I jumped at the chance. I left New York and went “down under” looking for another connection to my grandfather. I had only the first name of his close friend, “Denny,” and a postmark from the town of Kondinin, in West Australia. Through an interview I gave to a Perth newspaper, I connected with Denny’s widow and children. I walked into their home and hanging on the walls were pictures of Alaska that Grampie had sent them. Their memories of my grandfather are the only personal recollections I have of his life before Alaska. Thanks to Bill Fromholz, the decendents of Denny Repacholi remain my adopted Australian family to this day.
Bill Fromholz, 1945.