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Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Holmquist, Leonard & Florence

by John Holmquist

Like many early Juneau families, the Holmquist family has their roots in the Klondike gold rush of 1898. As a young man in his early 20ís, my grandfather, John Holmquist, set out to find his fortune in the Klondike. Unlike many others, however, his journey began a great distance from Alaska.

My grandfather was born in or around the community of Nykarlaby, Finland, a present day town the size of Juneau. While I have no information as to what success, if any, my grandfather may have had while in the Yukon, I know he eventually returned home from the gold fields to Finland, where he married my grandmother, Mary Stenfors. Not too long after my grandparentsí marriage early in the 20th Century, my grandfather departed Finland for South Africa to work in the gold mines near Johannesburg. He spent the next two years in Africa before returning home with the nest egg he had saved to take his family back to Alaska.

By the time my grandfather had returned home, their first son, my father Leonard, had already been born, in August of 1905. My familyís journey west began in 1907, as my grandparents and father set sail for America. Enroute, they stopped in Idaho, where my grandfather spent some time working there in a mine, before completing the final journey with his family to Juneau, arriving sometime in 1908.

Shortly following their arrival in Juneau, a second son, Ernest and later, a third son, Walter were born. The boys were all raised in Juneau. In high school my father was not only a member of the varsity basketball team but interestingly, he also played on the high school football team, which I understand played on a gravel field along Gold Creek, adjacent to Basin Road. Throughout the balance of his life, Grandfather worked in the mines around Juneau. Later following the opening of the AJ Gold Mine, he was hired as one of the mineís first foremen, a position he held until his
untimely death in 1924, from lung disease.

Following high school, my uncle, Ernest left Juneau and moved to Los Angeles, where he married my aunt, Doris and raised my cousin, Allen, now a psychologist in Monrovia. In 1934, my uncle, Walter, then in his early 20ís, was enroute to Chichagof Island where he was to meet friends for a hunting trip, when the plane in which he was flying crashed and took his life. Following graduation from high school in 1924, my father briefly worked for the AJ Mine before leaving for Corvallis, Oregon, where he attended Oregon State Agricultural College, later to become Oregon State University. Following his first year in college, Dad returned home to Juneau, where he met my mother, Florence Williams, a young beautician who, following high school, had moved to Juneau from Boise, Idaho.

My motherís family had begun their move to Juneau several years earlier, when Momís sister, Margaret, and her husband Albert White moved to Juneau where Al assumed the position of U.S. Marshall. Many years later, President Eisenhower would appoint Margaret White as U.S. Postmaster for Juneau, the last postmaster appointed before statehood. Following his retirement as U.S. Marshall, Uncle Al established a law practice in Juneau. Politically active, he became one of the key members of the Alaska Republican Party. I remember as a young boy, Uncle Al introducing me to Thomas E. Dewey at the Baranof Hotel, during his campaign for the office of President of the United States.

My motherís brother, Richard Williams, also preceded her in moving to Alaska. Following graduation from medical school, he moved to Juneau and later to Skagway, where he practiced dentistry before returning to Juneau, where he maintained his practice throughout the balance of his professional career.

A year or two following my motherís arrival in Juneau, her younger sister, Irma Williams, arrived with her father, Richard Williams, Sr. Later, Irma would meet and marry Harry Ask, a mercantile store owner from Skagway, where they made their home. The Asks had two children, Charles, now of Bellevue, Washington, and Johanne Nelson of Juneau.

My motherís sister, Belva Williams, arrived in Juneau later, following a short career in California as a womanís clothing designer. Ultimately, Belva accepted a job in Nome where she met and married Chris Roust, then manager of the Glen Carrington Company, later to become the Northern Commercial Company. During his career with the Carrington Company, Chris managed stores in several Alaska locations including Fairbanks and Anchorage, while also serving a term in the Alaska Territorial Legislature. Chris and Belva had one son, Chris Roust, now of Juneau, who lives with his wife Gail (daughter of Tom and Vera Park) and daughters Tanya and Gina.

My mother and father married on December 17, 1926, Momís birthday. While Mom continued her career as a beautician, operating The Florence Shop, Dad began a 25 year career with the Federal Bureau of Public Roads. Following statehood, Dad moved on to a position with the State of Alaska as Right-of-Ways Negotiator, a position he held until his illness and death in 1967.

After losing an infant son at birth and later a two year old daughter, Belva Marie, from surgical complications following removal of a brain tumor, I, John Holmquist, was born in 1939. Following graduation from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1957, I attended Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, where I earned my bachelorís degree.

Upon returning home to Juneau in 1963, I accepted a position with the B.M. Behrendís Bank and began my 20 year career in banking. In June of 1964, I married my sweetheart, Kathy Reischl, the daughter of David and Bette Reischl, another pioneer Juneau family.

Kathy and I raised our two children, John Jr., born in 1965, and Heidi, born in 1969. My father died at age 62 following a short bout with emphysema. My mother continued to live in Juneau until the mid-70ís when she met Harold (Doc) Wolfe of Scotts Valley, California, while visiting her brother and sister in law, Dick and Daisy Williams. Mom and Doc were later married, making their home in Scotts Valley until their deaths in 1986.

After 15 years with B.M. Behrends Bank, I left to accept the position of Vice President and Juneau Branch manager for a new office of Alaska National Bank of the North, a statewide bank out of Fairbanks. Bank of the North was then headed up by Frank Murkowski, now one of Alaskaís U.S. Senators serving in Washington D.C.

Five years later, in 1982, I left Bank of the North to pursue a career in the automotive industry. Kathy and I purchased Eero Volkswagen, Inc., the local Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi dealership from partners, Eero Krook and Eero Tetri. In 1984, we acquired the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury franchise and purchased the assets of Juneau Motors from the Ninnis family and retiring dealer, Joe Ninnis. Kathy and I continue to own and operate Evergreen Motors, Inc.

Our son, John Jr. moved to Los Angeles, California, following graduation from college and now lives in Glendale, California, with his wife Christine, daughter MacKenzie and son Riley. Their home is a short drive from the animation studio in Hollywood, where John works as a movie and television sequence director, most recently on the feature film ďRugrats in Paris,Ē which opened in theaters in November, 2000.

Our daughter Heidi continues to make her home in Juneau with partner, Jerry Allison, also a life-long Juneau resident. Jerryís mother Terry is the daughter of Steve and Evelyn Stevenson. As a pharmacist, Steve operated the Butler Mauro Drug Store, which they owned, while Evelyn managed their apartment building, the Hillcrest Apartments. Evelyn was well known in local political circles and was actively involved with the Alaska Legislature, where she served as Senate Secretary for many years.

Jerryís paternal grandparents, Dave and Jeannie Allison are long-time Juneauites as well. For many years, Dave operated the Allison Construction Company, having built many homes and apartment buildings throughout the Juneau area. Now retired, the Allisons continue to own and operate the Juneau Travelodge, which Dave built in the mid 80ís.

Our daughter Heidi has three children, daughter Brooke Bigelow and sons Randy and Tristan Allison. Heidi is a key member of the management team at Evergreen Motors where she has been employed for the past nine years.

Leonard and Florence Holmquist

John and Kathy Holmquist.