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Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Bob DeArmond Biography

Robert Neil DeArmond was born in Sitka in 1911 and died there in 2010. The son of Robert W. DeArmond who had arrived Sitka from Kansas in 1903 as the horticulturalist at the experiment station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Elizabeth Davidson DeArmond who had come to Sitka in 1907 to teach in the public school. They married in 1909 and a street in Sitka is named for them.

Robert attended school in Sitka and at Tacoma, Washington, where he graduated from Stadium High School in 1930, just after the Wall Street crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression. He worked in a salmon cannery that summer, then got his first newspaper job as a reporter for Strollers Weekly in Juneau. The paper was sold the following spring and the new owner became his own reporter. Jobs were scarce and in the summer of 1931 DeArmond made a rowboat trip from Sitka to Tacoma. This resulted, years later, the book, A Voyage in a Dory ." He also wrote or compiled several other books.


From Tacoma he went on to Eugene, Oregon, and the University of Oregon. After one year of college he returned to Sitka and for the next 12 years worked in the fishing industry at Sitka and the new settlement of Pelican. In 1935 at Sitka he married Dale Burlison, whom he had first met at Stadium High School. A son, William, was born to them in 1938, and a daughter, Jane, in 1940. In the fall of 1938 DeArmond was a member of the first crew that went from Sitka to Lisianski Inlet, Chichagof Island, to build a cold storage plant and found the town of Pelican. There DeArmond was storekeeper, bookkeeper and postmaster .

The DeArmonds and their two children remained at Pelican until the end of 1944. Anxious to get back into newspaper work, DeArmond moved his family to Ketchikan and he became a reporter on the Alaska Fishing News, which soon became the Ketchikan Daily News. From 1946 until 1953 he covered the biennial sessions of the Alaska Territorial Legislature for the Daily News, the Juneau Empire and several other papers. That took him to Juneau for two months every other year, first from Ketchikan and after 1949 from Sitka where he had become a partner in the Sitka Printing Company. At two different times, while living in Sitka, DeArmond was elected to the City Council. He became a member of the Ketchikan Igloo of the Pioneers of Alaska and in 1957 became Grand President of the organization. In April 1953 DeArmond became administrative assistant and press secretary to B. Frank Heintzleman, the former Regional Forester who had been appointed Governor of Alaska by President Dwight Eisenhower and who, with most of his staff, were actually employees of the U.S. Department of the Interior. While they lived in Juneau, Dale DeArmond worked for several state agencies including a new Department of Library Service. She then became librarian at the Juneau Memorial Library and held that position for 29 years. She also became known as a printmaker, particularly wood cuts and wood engravings.

Between 1957 and 1973 DeArmond worked part time as a researcher at the Alaska Historical Library in Juneau. In 1958 with Robert A. Henning he founded Alaska Northwest Publishing Co. and purchased The Alaska Sportsman (now Alaska Magazine) which he edited for some years. He also edited Alaska Journal, published by same firm. He also served on the board of directors of the Alaska Historical Society and as a member of the Alaska Historical Commission.

The DeArmonds moved from Juneau back to Sitka and into the Pioneers' Home there in 1991 where he continued as a writer for The Sitka Sentinel, the Alaskan Southeaster, The Sea Chest and other publications.  He consulted and advised widely, including providing advice to our Digital Bob project.  Dale died on November 21, 2006 at the age of 92 and their daughter Jane died on December 17, 2006.  Bob passed away on November 26, 2010.  Their son William lives in Juneau.