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Biographies R~Z

R

PRINCESS WAH NESE RED ROCK Princess Wah Nese Red Rock (1913-1988)
Princess Red Rock was the daughter of the last chief of the Ojibway Totem tribe of Canada. She was an Indian rights activist, a singer and an actress who appeared in the movie, "The Last of the Mohicans." Princess Red Rock attended the Eastman School of Music and went on to sing professionally as a member of the St. Louis Opera Company. She was billed as one of America's top Indian singers. The highlight of her career was singing at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration in 1944. She is buried in Valley Memorial Park, Palmer AK.


ROBERT CAMPBELL "BOB" REEVE Born March 27, 1902 Waunakee, Wisconsin. After a stint in the Army, earned his commercial pilots license in 1928 and started flying air mail runs for Panagra, the Pan American subsidiary in South America. In January 1932 Bob stowed away on a steamship bound for Alaska. In Valdez, he repaired Owen Meals' Eaglerock biplane which Meals had crashed, then leased the plane & started a charter business flying the Copper River area and Interior. Bob left Valdez in early 40's, went to Fairbanks, then to Anchorage, where he started making scheduled runs all the way down the Aleutian Chain. After a series of mergers & acquisitions, in 1947 he founded Reeve Aleutian Airlines based in Anchorage. He was president of the airlines. Bob retired from flying in 1948. In 1975 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame; in 1980 the International Aerospace Hall of Fame, & in 2005 the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame. Bob died August 25, 1980 at Anchorage.

PAT RENAHAN Flew for Alaska Washington Airways in Southeast Alaska. Was lost near Ketchikan coming north to search for Canadian bush pilot E. J. Paddy Burke whose plane was lost in Northern British Columbia with three on board in October 1930.

S.E. ROBBINS Flew for Alaska Airways in 1930 and was one of the pilots who flew furs from the trading ship Nanuck which was trapped in the ice off Siberia, helping to complete the Eielson contract after he was lost. Then went with Pacific Alaska Airways. Landed on the glaciers of Mt. McKinley in 1932. Flew the first mail routes from Fairbanks to upper Yukon villages for Pacific Alaska Airways, and in 1938 flew the first mail route from Fairbanks to Juneau. Transferred to San Francisco before WW II.

VICTOR "VIC" ROSS Born January 11, 1896. Was partner with Noel Wien when they formed Northern Air Transport. He was president of the company and also flew out of Valdez, Fairbanks and Nome. Was Noel Wien's co-pilot in 1935 when they flew the film of the Post/Rogers crash to Seattle, & was again his co-pilot when they flew a Tri-motor Ford on the first Seattle-Fairbanks passenger flight. Left Alaska before WW II. Retired in Bellingham, WA where he died in June 1975.

ALBERT F. "BERT" RUOFF Born March 29, 1934. Started as mechanic-pilot for Bowman Airways, Anchorage, then took over company to found Ruoff Air Service serving Anchorage to Bristol Bay area. later named Bristol Bay Air Service. The Alaska Air Pilots' Association was formed in 1938 with Roy Dickson as first president and Burt Ruoff as Vice President. Sold out to Ray Petersen in 1943 & left Anchorage. Died in1950 at Seattle, WA.

CHARLES H. "CHARLEY" RUTTAN Born Winnipeg, Manitoba. Along with Steve Mills & Jack Waterworth bought a two place open cockpit Fleet biplane in Glendale, CA in 1931. Shipped the plane to Alaska on the SS Yukon in the spring of 1932. They started Star Air Service in Anchorage with support from local investors. Flew with Star Air Service & Star Airlines. Gave up flying regularly to take over operations and management. Retired to Victoria, B.C., Canada where he died in 1994.

IRENE E. RYAN  (1909-1997)
Irene was a geological engineer who resided in Anchorage between 1931-1932. After leaving the state, she returned to Alaska in 1941 and became a permanent resident. She served as a geological exploration and survey consultant for private and public agencies. Irene served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1955-1959 and as an Alaska State Senator from 1959-1961. She served the state in a number of different positions such as State Commissioner of Economic Development and Planning, executive secretary of Yukon Power for America which promoted the Rampart Dam in1963, Governor's Advisory Reapportionment Board in 1961 and she was a Member of the American Institute of Mining & Metallurgy Engineers. Irene held memberships in groups such as the Society of Women Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Advancement of Science, the Arctic Institute and the National Association of Geology Teachers. She is buried in Angelus Memorial Park, Anchorage.

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MURRELL SASSEEN Born January 16, 1906. Learned to fly in San Bernardino, CA. First flew in southeastern Alaska for Ketchikan Airways, then Alaska Southern Airways out of Juneau. Came north and flew for McGee Airways and Star Air Service in the mid 30's, then Mirow Air Service in Nome. Joined Air Corps in WW II and flew in the Air Transport Command. Flew for Woodley Airways, then employed by Alaska Coastal until he retired in Redmond, WA where he died in May 1974.

RALPH W. SAVORY Born in Santa Clara, CA area Oct 14, 1909. Learned to fly at Speed Johnson's Flying School, San Mateo, CA in 1929. Ralph brought a Curtis Thrush to Anchorage in 1935. Flew independently out of Anchorage, then for Star Air Service. The Alaska Air Pilots' Association was formed in 1938 with Roy Dickson as first president, Burt Ruoff as Vice President and Ralph Savory as Secretary. Went to Pacific Alaska Airways in 1939, flew Fairbanks - Juneau route. Became PAA Chief Pilot. In October 1957 Captained a Pan Am Clipper on a charter flight from San Francisco to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica via Fiji, Australia & New Zealand returning via London, making an around the world flight. Later became Pan American's West Coast Chief Pilot. Died Jan 18, 2010 in California.

 

CURT SCHILLING Born in 1966 in Anchorage, Schilling is one of just 8 Alaskans to make it to the major leagues. He was just 19 when the Boston Red Sox noticed his pitching skills and drafted him in 1986 for $20,000. Since then, he has played for the Baltimore Orioles, the Houston Astros, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2004, he helped the Red Sox clinch their first World Championship win in 86 years. Off the field, though, Schilling hasn't been so successful. Last year, GQ ranked him 4th in its "Ten Most Hated Athletes" list — mostly for his in-your-face patriotism (he stumped for George W. Bush in 2004) and his very public conflicts with former managers, sports columnists and even his fellow teammates, one of whom accused him of using red paint to make it appear as though his injured ankle was bleeding during game six of the 2004 ALCS.


GEORGE S. "TONY" SCHWAMM Born August 31, 1902 in California. Was a Hollywood stunt flyer starring in Howard Hughes' "Hells Angels." Came to Petersburg, Alaska in 1937 & founded Petersburg Air Service, flying into Juneau. In Naval Reserve during WW II as Lt. Commander. Moved to Anchorage in 1949 as first Director of Aviation for the Territory. Was a delegate to 1956 Democratic National Convention. Became manager of Anchorage International Airport and was Anchorage Postmaster in 1963. Died of natural causes in Alaska in February, 1966.

CLAYTON L. "SCOTTY" SCOTT Born July 15, 1905 at Coudersport, PA. Soloed Feb 25, 1927 in a Waco 9. In May 1929 while flying for Gorst Air Transport in southeast Alaska, flew an amphibious plane from Juneau to Cordova, the first commercial crossing of the Gulf of Alaska. Went to Seattle in the early 30s and became Bill Boeing's personal pilot. Was chief production test pilot for Boeing from 1940-1966. In 2005 the Renton Municipal Airort was renamed Clayton Scott Field. He kept his pilots license active for 79 year. Died September 28, 2006 at Mercer Island, WA at age 101.

LEONHARD SEPPALA In 1925, more than 20 men and their dogs helped rush an emergency package of medicine nearly 675 miles to Nome, Alaska, which faced a deadly outbreak of diphtheria. As principal musher, Seppala battled blizzard conditions and icy terrain, eventually traveling more than twice as far as his colleagues. The "Great Race of Mercy," as it was later known, is now commemorated annually with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, originally known as the "Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race." Eventually, Seppala's name faded into obscurity — at least outside of Alaska. Today, most people think not of the man, but of the mutt, Balto, who led the final leg of the race, and whose achievement is marked by a life-sized statue that sits in Manhattan's Central Park.

 

SHELDON B. "SHELL" SIMMONS Born October 8, 1908 in Clearwater Co., Idaho, reared in Grandview, WA. In 1925 went to Alaska as an electrician at the Alaska-Juneau Mine. In 1929 went to Yakima, WA & learned to fly at a flying school run by John L. Seawall, a WW I pilot. Went back to southeast Alaska and after several failed attempts at air service involving the only Curtiss Jennie on floats and an open-cockpit Aero-Marine Klem, started Alaska Air Transport in 1935, joined with Alex Holden's Marine Airways in 1939 to form Alaska Coastal Airlines, which joined with Ellis Airlines in 1965 for form Alaska Coastal-Ellis Airlines, which became part of Alaska Airlines in 1968. Shell became a Director Emeritus of Alaska Airlines in 1981. He died Nov 16, 1994
in Juneau.


MERLE K. "MUDHOLE" SMITH Born September 22, 1907 in Kansas. Learned to fly in 1928 & barnstormed in the midwest. "Kirk" Kirkpatrick brought him to Alaska in 1937 to fly for Cordova Air Service. Bob Reeve observed his plane nosed over in a mud hole & gave him his nickname. Became president of Cordova Air Service after Kirkpatrick was killed in a 1939 crash. In 1952 merged with Christensen Air Service to become Cordova Airlines which merged with Alaska Airlines in 1968. "Mudhole" was a vice-president & director of Alaska Airlines until 1973. He was inducted into the OX5 Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame & the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame. He died June 16, 1981 at Cordova. The Cordova Airport is named Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport.

 

 

TED STEVENS Once the country's longest-serving Republican senators, Ted Stevens had a rough year. After working as Alaska's go-to guy for four decades, Stevens ended his storied career in disgrace. He was convicted in October 2007 of failing to properly report more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil-services company executive and later lost his re-election bid by just a few hundred votes. Even so, most Alaskans remain fond of the 85-year-old World War II veteran. Thanks to his expertise in procuring pork barrel funds, the state received $3.4 billion between 1995 and 2008. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, which has targeted the senator for years, named him December's Porker of the Month, calling the dubious award a "final swan song" for Stevens.


 

 

ROBERT STROUD Stroud spent most of his adolescence in Alaska as a teenage runaway. It was there that he met a prostitute nearly twice his age, took up pimping and fatally shot a colleague during a drunken brawl in 1908. At the time of his first murder conviction, he was was just 19-years-old. Were it not for the mercy of President Woodrow Wilson, Robert Stroud would have been hanged in 1920 for murdering a prison guard while serving out his sentence at the Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary. But as it was, Wilson commuted his sentence to life in solitary confinement, much of which Stroud spent on Alcatraz Island, where he wrote and published several books about ornithology. The self-taught hobbyist later earned the nickname "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and his Digest on the Diseases of Birds, published in 1943, became a classic in the field.


MURRAY STUART Flew a Boeing flying boat in Southeast Alaska in the early 30s with Gorst Air Transport until it was sold to Pacific Alaska Airways. Then became one of Pan American's top pilots. Brought first jet into Anchorage International Airport. Died of natural causes.

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ANNA TOBELUK Sheldon Jackson's intentions were good, but his impact on Alaskan education was not. Until the mid-1970s, most rural villages  in Alaska lacked schools or even basic infrastructure, with many towns connected not by roads, but by boardwalks. If they could afford it, some rural students took planes to reach the nearest school. Others were forced to spend 9 months of the year apart from their families when the distance was too great to cover regularly. Anna Tobeluk was just 18-years-old when, in 1975, she became the last plaintiff to join a lawsuit against the Alaskan government for its failure to provide public education. A year later, the court ruled in the students' favor and 126 schools were constructed across Alaska — an area nearly twice the size of Texas.


RICHARD AUSTIN TOZIER Richard Austin "Dick" Tozier (1931-1993) Mr. Tozier was a veteran dog musher. He served on the board of directors of the Alaska Sled Dog Racing Association beginning in 1958. For 35 years he was race marshal for the club's premier event, the Anchorage Fur "Rondy." He also served as marshal for the inaugural run of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race 1974 and was an Iditarod board member. Dick was known for his way with dogs and horses and was president of the Chugach Range Riders Club from 1975 until his death

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A.J. VALLEY Was an instructor for Steve Mills at Star Air Service in Anchorage. Later flew for Goodnews Bay Mining Co. Left Alaska at beginning of WW II.

DAN VICTOR Born September 27, 1901. Flew for McGee and Star Air Service in mid-1930's. Later went to work for CAA and died in a crash in November, 1942 between Nulato and Unalakleet in the Interior.

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CLYDE WANN "The Father of Yukon (Territory) Aviation." Clyde & pilot Andy Cruikshank purchased a B-1 Ryan they named "Queen of the Yukon" at the San Diego factory, flew it to Vancouver, B.C., shipped it to Skagway, flew it to Whitehorse arriving October 28, 1927. The next day they flew the first commercial airplane flight in Yukon Territory founding Yukon Airways and Exploration Company. On May 5, 1928 the plane crashed at Whitehorse Airport, damaging it beyond repair. They purchased a B-5 Ryan they named "Queen of the Yukon II" which crashed at Mayo, Y.T. On November 2, 1929, killing the pilot John "Pat" Patterson. This ended Yukon Airways but commercial aviation in Yukon Territory had been established. Clyde died of a heart attack at his home near Whitehorse in 1967.

CLARENCE E. "SLIM" WALTERS Born August 9, 1914 at Wapinitia, OR. Came to Juneau in May 1935 flying for Irving Airways. Purchased a Daviss D-1K aircraft & started Alaska School of Aeronautics, a flight school & charter service in Juneau. When WW II started Slim joined the Ferry Command at Ft. Lewis, WA. From 1946-1950 he owned & operated Alaska Island Airlines in Petersburg. He worked for Reeve Aleutian Airways for many years, then joined the FAA in Anchorage as a inspector, retiring in 1976. Slim died at age 90 on July 16, 2005 at Lafayette, CO.

JOHN E. "JACK" WATERWORTH Born Olewein, Iowa December 2, 1906. Studied pharmology at Univ of Washington for 3 years. In 1931 in Seattle, Jack quit college & partnered with Steve Mills & Charley Ruttan to buy a Fleet biplane, shipping it to Alaska on the SS Yukon in the spring of 1932. With support from local investors they founded Star Air Service in Anchorage as a flight school & charter operation. Ruttan was business manager, Mills was chief pilot & Jack was instructor. In 1935 Jack left Star & worked at Loussac's Drugstore in Anchorage. He went Outside for a few years, then returned to Anchorage at the start of WW II to fly for Woodley Airways. He moved to Seattle in 1943, opened a hardware store, then worked for Boeing until his death in Seattle in September 1969.

LENORA WEAVER  (1909-2002) Leonora came to Alaska in 1951. She settled in Fairbanks and later moved to Anchorage and bought and operated the White Spot Café. She cooked and served burgers until she was 90 years old. Her business was famous in Anchorage and was known as "the home town place to eat." Leonora was a kind lady and is remembered for being "spunky" and "doing things her way." She is buried in Angelus Memorial Park, Anchorage.

FRANK H. WHALEY Born August 6, 1906. Was flying out of Nome with Roust Airways in 1934. Was an active Gold Miner. Later flew for Wien Airlines & became Chief of Publicity for Tourism with Wien Air Alaska.. Was a Territorial Representative from Nome from 1941-46, & Territorial Senator from Fairbanks 1945-46. In 1961 was one of the organizers of the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. Died in San Diego, CA September 15, 1997 at age 91.

SAM O. WHITE Born Nov 26, 1891 in Maine. He was in the US Army for two years in WW I. Came to Alaska in 1922 with a US Coast & Geodetic Survey Team mapping the Yukon River. In 1927 became a Game Agent for Alaska Game Commission. Ralph Wien taught Sam to fly in 1928, then he did his game patrol from the air. He left the Game Commission in 1941 & started flying for Wien Airlines. In WW II he flew charter planes for the US Air Force. After the war he continued flying in Alaska until retiring to Fairbanks in 1964, where he died in Dec 1976.

NOEL WIEN "Dean of the Alaska Bush Pilots." Born June 8, 1899 at Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. In 1921 Major Ray S. Miller taught Noel to fly in Minnesota. He arrived in Alaska in 1924 to fly a Hisso J-1 Standard biplane for Rodebaugh's Alaska Aerial Transport Co. in Fairbanks. He flew the Standard on the first flight between Anchorage & Fairbanks on July 15, 1924, one of his many "firsts." In 1927 Noel & brother Ralph bought a Stinson biplane, founded Wien Alaska Airways in Nome & started the first scheduled air service in Alaska, one round trip per week between Fairbanks & Nome. They sold Wien Alaska Airways in 1929. Noel was first to reach Seattle with film of the Will Rogers, Wiley Post wreck in 1935. After founding several airlines, Noel sold his interest in Wien Alaska Airlines to his brother Sigurd "Sig" Wien in 1940. Noel died July 19, 1977 at Bellevue, WA. He was inducted into the OX-5 Club Hall of Fame in 1973, the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989, & the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2000. The library in Fairbanks is named "Noel Wien Public Library."

RALPH WIEN Noel Wien's older brother, born 1897 in Wisconsin. Came to Alaska with Noel in
1924. Was co-founder with Noel in 1927 of Wien Alaska Airways in Nome. Noel taught him to fly in Fairbanks in 1928. He, along with two Catholic Priests died in crash of a Bellanca at Kotzebue on October 13, 1930. The Kotzebue Airport is named "Ralph Wien Memorial Airport."

SIGURD "SIG" WIEN Younger brother of Noel. Born November 5, 1903 in Wisconsin. In 1930 Sig accompanied Noel on his flight in a Stinson from Minnesota back to Alaska following Ralph's funeral. Sig learned to fly in Fairbanks in 1937. He lived in Barrow for five years & pioneered regular year-round flights to the Arctic Coast. In 1940 Sig purchased Noel's stock in Wien Air Alaska & became President. After the merger with Northern Consolidated Airlines in 1968 he became President of Wien Consolidated Airlines. Sig died in Fairbanks December 9, 1994.

OSCAR WINCHELL Born November 19, 1903 into a farm family in Veridgre, Nebraska He bought a Jenny in South Dakota in 1927 and founded Pioneer Airways which became Rapid City Airlines. Came to Alaska in 1931 & started operating Oscar Winchell Flying Service out of Anchorage. Flew to the Kuskokwim region. Oscar was a cowboy in Arizona before coming north and was known as "The Flying Cowboy," which is the title of a book about him published by his daughter. Flew for McGee, Star and Alaska Airlines. Oscar was forced down in March 1935 on a trip from Takotna and McGrath to Anchorage with three passengers. They were trapped in severe snow storms for 12 days before being rescued by Roy Dickson. There is a detailed account of this rescue in the new book Roy Dickson 1930s Alaska Bush Pilot. Oscar flew steadily until 1954 when he retired to San Dimas, California where he died December 19, 1987.

ARTHUR GORDON "ART" WOODLEY Born in New York February 15, 1906, educated at Boston College, learned to fly in the Army Air Corps in1928. His brother George was a Catholic Priest who had a Bellanca that he used in missionary work. When Father George was assigned to a new location at Nulato Mission in Alaska, Art & George flew the plane to Anchorage. Shortly after arriving, Father George was killed in a hunting accident. Art stayed and founded Woodley Airways in 1932 with a four place Travel Air and a four place Waco A. Originally he flew mostly to the Bristol Bay area & secured several mail contracts. Art renamed Woodley Airways in 1945 Pacific Northern Airway, then Pacific Northern Airlines (PNA) in 1947. PNA merged with Western Airlines in 1967 and Art was vice-president when he retired in 1971. Art died at his home in Bellevue, WA May 28, 1990. He was inducted into the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2008.

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GEORGE E. "ED" YOUNG Born about 1893 in Michigan. Flew out of Fairbanks in the late 20's for Rodebaugh and flew for Anchorage Air Transport with Russ Merrill and Alonzo Cope and flew for Pacific Alaska Airways. Died in a crash of a Fairchild 71 at Livengood in the very early 1930's.

 

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