by Patricia Hussey Berg
My mother, Irma Hannah Fillmore, was born in New Brunswick, in Eastern Canada, in 1901. Her allergies were so bad as a child that the family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she greatly improved. The Fillmore family had originally emigrated from England to the North American continent in 1701. Their claim to fame was a cousin, Willard Fillmore, born in New England in 1800, and later to become President of the United States (1850-1853) following the death of President Zachery Taylor. An interesting family note was, that during three different eras, in different areas of the United States, three Fillmores married three Husseys and none of them ever knew each other.
My father, Patrick James Hussey, was born on Drummond Island, Michigan in 1889. His grandparents emigrated from Ireland and settled in Michigan. Grandpa Hussey was listed as a “shipwright” on his death certificate, which is probably what brought them out to Port Orchard and the Bremerton area.
I don’t know where the two met but do know they lived in the Port Orchard and Seattle area before their marriage in May of 1917. Dad was an adventurous sort who always had a joke and twinkle in his eye. He was an extremely talented man with his hands, building structures, anything mechanical, an artist with a paint brush, he could pick up any instrument and play it including the drums without ever having had a lesson. Mother was quite a few years younger, a giggler who appreciated his great sense of humor. They moved to Kodiak, Alaska, after their union much to the consternation of her parents, as Alaska seemed to be at the end of the earth.
Dad was bitten by the gold bug early on, and wherever we lived in Alaska, he was always on the lookout. He always had a gold pan and shovel in his boat or car.
I don’t know what date they arrived in Kodiak other than that it was the summertime of 1917, and accommodations were at a premium. Mom, who had come from a cosmopolitan city and had apprenticed as a hat designer when she quit school at 15, had to pack water, boil water for clothes, cleaning, baths, dishes, etc. on a wood stove and must have wondered what she had gotten herself into. On the other hand, they both had a terrific sense of humor, which surely got them through those times. In 1919, Mom found herself pregnant with her first child—me. Evidently, she found accommodations lacking because she decided to go to her parents in Vancouver, B. C., for my arrival, returning when I was three months old that November. My birthdate was August 27, 1919. Crossing the Gulf of Alaska that time of year was very rough and passengers talked about the only one to come to the dining room was the woman with the baby enroute to Kodiak. My mother was obviously a great sailor.
In 1921, Dad moved his family to Anchorage where my brother, Vernon William, was born November 4, 1921. We later moved to Juneau, where he graduated from Juneau High School and went to Anchorage for work in 1940, and then joined the Navy. During the War, he fought in both theaters, Atlantic and Pacific, and after discharge in 1945, went on to college in Ellensburg, Washington, to study pharmacy. He was there six months when he contracted polio and died. This was a grief from which the family never fully recovered. He was buried in Seattle.
We moved to Seward in 1925, where my sister, Marion Amanda, was born April 14, 1925. We could not have been there too long, as she was still an infant when we went to Latouche Island, where Dad was employed by Kennecott Copper Corporation as a diesel engineer. Marion married Nelson Major, a contractor in Tacoma, Washington, who built beautiful homes, cabinets and furniture. They had three children. Nels died in 1981, and Marion is still living in Tacoma.
When Latouche closed, we went to Cordova where Vern started the first grade and I the third. We were awaiting transportation to Kennecott, where Dad was to keep the electricity going again as a diesel engineer. Those were very happy years in Kennecott. We lived mostly in the woods - climbing trees, hiking mountains and playing kick-the-can. In the winter, the Yard Gang built a skating rink just outside the two room schoolhouse (one through eighth grades). We skated and skied all winter long. Summertime brought berry picking - beautiful red currants that grew like grapes and made the most wonderful jelly. Movies were shown at the gymnasium every Wednesday and Saturday night.
We moved to Southeast Alaska in 1932, and the folks settled in Douglas, which was a very small town at that time. Dad tried a mechanic’s garage and later a sawmill, while Mom had an ice cream parlor; but there were not enough people to support those endeavors. That is when we moved to Juneau where I entered the eighth grade. In Juneau, Dad supported his family doing carpenter work, but continued his prospecting with claims at Montana Creek and a cabin and sluice box at Berners Bay. Vern and I used to go with him to pan for gold ourselves, and I have a one ounce nugget melted down from gold I took from both places.
In 1940 the folks moved to Sitka where Dad worked on building the military base. Later, he worked with the diesels at the Sitka Power Plant. Marion graduated from high school in Sitka in 1943. In 1944, they moved to Tacoma. Patrick died in 1976, and Irma in 1981. They were buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Tacoma.
I graduated from Juneau High School in 1938, and married Clifford Berg on November 16, 1938. We have one son, Jan Vernon Berg, born January 12, 1946. He resides with his wife, Mary Carpenter Eldemar in Glendale, Arizona. We have six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.