Gregg, Jim & Inez
by Doug Gregg
James R. Gregg was born in Billings, Montana, in 1899, Inez was born in Cambridge, Minnesota, in 1905, and their son Douglas, in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1927. In the 1920’s, as orchestra leader and violinist at a large theater in Minneapolis, James Gregg also cued the silent pictures, the selection of music to accompany silent films. He had acquired a large library of music. Things were rosy until 1928 or 1929, when talking pictures displaced live musicians in all movie theaters. Along with thousands of other musicians, James Gregg became unemployed overnight. A few years later he moved his family to Seattle.
During the Depression years of the 30’s, Jim played the violin only occasionally but had taught himself to play both piano and guitar so was able to work in small combos playing popular and dance music. In the mid 1930’s, he was asked to fill in on a few occasions for regular violinists on the Admiral Line tour ships sailing to Southeast Alaska, which left its impression on him. An opportunity to move to Alaska came in 1938, when Seattle musician Robert Tew asked Jim if he would consider employment in Juneau as pianist in Bob’s orchestra at the Capital Lounge on Front Street. Jim arrived in Juneau in October 1938, and Inez, Doug, and their dog “Buster” arrived March 15, 1939, aboard the old wooden ship Tongass.
In 1940, Jim purchased a 26-foot double-end Columbia River boat which he named the Inez. He spent the summer of 1940 learning the ropes and in 1942, took son Doug along. During their June to September trip, they visited Funter Bay, Hoonah, Elfin Cove, Soapstone, Three Hill, Deer Harbor, Surge Bay, Greentop, Hoctaheen, Pelican and more. Jim’s poem “Around Yakobi” written a few years later, became a favorite among the power troll fleet and has since been published in the Alaskan Southeaster.
Music has always been part of the family. Inez Gregg played violin. She wrote “The Lorelei,” a beautiful love song about the mythological spirit who lured sailors to their destruction on the rocks. Jim wrote words and music to many songs, several of which are still played and sung at family gatherings. Both Doug and his late wife, Lily Ann, played instruments; Lily, the piano and organ and Doug, the guitar. The grandchildren, Susi, Janice and Walter, each had musical upbringing, and Janice majored in music at the University of Oregon. All play piano and sing, and each of the great grandchildren also play instruments and sing.
As one of the founders of the Juneau Symphony, Jim played in its concerts for several decades. He was also a serious amateur astronomer. A past master in Freemasonry, Jim was awarded the honorary 33rd degree in S Scottish Rite Masonry. (Son Doug later became a Mason and also served as master of Mt. Juneau Lodge for one year.)
For many years after he retired from commercial fishing, Jim worked for the Alaska Department of Labor. In the early 80’s, his left hand began to shake ever so little—the beginning of Parkinson’s disease. He moved to the Juneau Pioneer’s Home a few years later. James R. Gregg died in July, 1990. He was a hunter, fisherman, musician, marriage commissioner, astronomer, Master Mason and Pioneer.
Inez Gregg, wife, mother, matriarch, was the lovable, talented lady whose wisdom and strength was the glue that held a growing family together in good times and bad. Self taught, her lifetime love affair with reading turned out to be a valuable business asset as well. Inez was known and loved not only by her family but by hundreds of Juneauites. Her remarkable Baranof Book Shop kept growing and so moved several times over
the years, ending up in the (then new) B.M. Behrends Department Store building in the 1960’s. The shop was sold to Jeannie Grummett (now Jeannie Kline) in 1974. All three of her grandchildren worked at the book shop on weekends and after school. They learned the inventory, how to gift wrap, make change and perhaps most important of all, how to treat customers. The last ten years of her life, Inez experienced physical problems which resulted in surgery. She spent a term of months first at St. Ann’s Nursing Home and then in the Juneau Pioneers Home where she died peacefully in October, 1992.
Doug left high school in December 1944, took 12 weeks basic training at the U.S. Maritime Training School at Santa Catalina in California and immediately shipped out for the Philippines as Acting Able Seaman aboard a Union Oil tanker. The Japanese surrendered while Doug’s vessel was unloading in Tacloban Harbor. A few months short of two years later, Doug returned to Juneau where he finished his last semester of high school. His high school sweetheart, Lily Ann Maurstad was in that class, too. They left Juneau in the fall of 1945, and were married at the Episcopal Church in Seattle, where Doug had been baptized and confirmed as a child.
Lily Ann (Maurstad) Gregg passed away just two months after the death of her mother-in-law, Inez, on December 10, 1992, of cancer. She was loved by all including a host of close friends, many dating back to high school days. Both of her parents were born in Norway. A fine musician, Lily also sang for many years in the Resurrection Lutheran Church choir and later with the “University Singers” conducted by daughter Janice. Lily worked as bookkeeper in her husband’s law office from 1983 to 1992. She was salutatorian of her J-Hi Class of 1947.
Doug and Lily Ann’s three children, Susan, Janice and Walter all live and work in Juneau. Married to artist James Fowler, Susan is the talented author of many books. They have two children, Angela, a student at Hollins University in Virginia and well known for her dancing abilities and Micaela, a sophomore at Juneau Douglas High School, and a budding actress. Janice, an Assistant Attorney General for the state, was first married to Ross Soboleff. They divorced in the 1980’s. Their children are Jacob, Nathan and Madeline. On remarriage to Juneau attorney Keith Levy, Janice had a fourth child, Abraham. The talents of the four include but are not limited to Jacob, guitar; Nathan, electric bass; Madeline, piano and dance; and Abraham, piano and bass fiddle. Walter Maurstad Gregg remains single. He took early retirement from the U.S. Forest Service where he worked in electronics. Since his mother passed away, Walt has taken over the bookkeeping functions at the law office and in addition, manages the office electronic systems. In matters of finance, he has become adviser to the whole family.
In 1994, Doug married a widowed lady from Gustavus, Alaska. Born in Juneau but raised in Gustavus, Anne Laurie (White) Chase has four grown children, all of Gustavus. Anne is receptionist in Doug’s office. Her grandparents, Abraham Lincoln Parker and wife Edith, were the first to prove up on a homestead in Gustavus. Prior to that they had lived in Skagway for a short time during the gold rush. Anne is a painter and a Gustavus historian.
(L to R): Doug, Inez and Jim Gregg.