William E. “Bill” Carlson

April 13, 1940-April 18, 2015

  • William E. “Bill” Carlson

Mr. William Edward “Bill” Carlson, 75, died April 18, 2015, peacefully in his sleep at his home five days after his 75th birthday. He was born April 13, 1940, to Eva Beal and Earnest Carlson of Anaconda, Mont. The family moved to Tanana in 1943 with the U.S. Army’s aircraft lend-lease program during World War II. Bill and his older sister Claire enjoyed a frontier childhood on the banks of the Yukon River among fish traps, dog sleds and stern-wheeled river boats. When the family moved to Homer in 1948, Bill was held back in school for refusing to speak English, preferring instead to communicate in his adopted Dene dialect. 

Military services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2, 2015, at the Ninilchik cemetery. There will be a potluck Celebration of Life to follow at 1 p.m. at the American Legion Post 18, Ninlcihik.

Bill Carlson attended first through 12th grades in Homer. He graduated in 1959, the year Alaska attained statehood, with both a territorial and a state diploma. “Bad Billy,” as he has been occasionally known, had since assimilated into the American counter-culture of muscle cars, Lucky Strike cigarettes and black leather jackets. Rumors abound that he started Homer’s first rebel youth gang, which included an initiation featuring a do-it-yourself tattoo. He and his fellow motoring enthusiasts regularly drove to Anchorage to cruise on 4th Avenue in front of the city’s radio station located above the Bun Drive-In.

Aside from Marlon Brando, Elvis, and rock and roll, one of the strongest influences on Bill’s young life was his brother-in-law, Alan Dietz. An Aleut and son of a Homer homesteader, Alan married Claire in 1952 and they had four children, Ken, Tony, David and Dakean, with whom Bill remained very close. From Alan, Bill learned to trap, hunt, fish and survive in the wilderness and on the water. His love of the outdoors and curiosity about nature informed much of the rest of his life.

In 1962, Bill was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent his tour in Germany with the Pershing Missile Crew where he learned about explosives and munitions. Bill held a blaster’s license for the rest of his life and was often employed on materials sites, road and railroad construction, and on the pipeline as a blaster.

Along with being a munitions expert, Bill was a welder’s helper, logger, fisherman and an equipment operator. He was also a reader, a scholar, a lover of poetry and music, a friend, an uncle, and a father.

In 1965, Bill married Karen Tennison and they had two children, Rama and Darry, who were later adopted by Karen’s second husband and Bill’s former schoolmate, Willy Flyum. In 1973, Bill married Coyleen Eskelson and they had three children, Billeen, Stephanie and Ross. Bill spent the last 15 years of his life hunting, fishing, hiking and building cabins and bridges with his soul mate, Patsy Bushnell.

Bill spent the last two decades of his life as an active member of the American Legion, Sons of the VFW, and 40 & 8. He served most of that time as the Chaplain of Legion Post 18, taking a special interest in providing scholarships to graduating Ninilchik youth, hospice work and tending to the spiritual needs (with his own special flair) of the post.

Bill goes to join his father, mother, brother Tony Carlson, his sister, and his beloved brother-in-law Alan, in the happy hunting grounds in the sky where they are surely waiting for him along with every “almost legal” moose he ever harvested.

He is survived by nephews, nieces, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wit, wisdom, insight, compassion, political acuity and amazing squaw candy will be missed by those who knew him.

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