Jack C. Vantrease
Oct. 16, 1920-March 29, 2017
Jack Clifton Vantrease was born Oct. 16, 1920, in Grandfield, Okla., and died at the age of 96 on March 29, 2017. “He concluded his affairs on earth in the town of Homer, Alaska, and stepped confidently into eternity,” his family said. In between those two dates Jack lived an amazing adventure as a homesteader, commercial fisherman, bush pilot, construction electrician and flight instructor.
Jack’s family and friends will gather for a farewell party at 2 p.m. April 21, 2017, at First Baptist Church of Anchorage. All are invited, of course.
At age 18 he made his way from Oklahoma to the west coast, and then headed north along that coast until he finally reached Alaska in 1941. Inducted into the U.S. Army in 1944, Jack saw his future home for the first time while enroute to boot camp in Seattle. As he passed down the length of Iliamna Lake he determined to return there and make a home after defeating the enemies of the United States of America, and being a determined sort of a fellow, that is what he did.
In the U.S. Army Signal Corp, Jack served in the Philippines and in Japan, earning two battle stars but no battle scars. Upon honorable discharge he married Evelyn Lewis, a missionary displaced from Kodiak Island by the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians. They had met in Seattle during basic training, and together they built a 19-foot wood plank skiff which they shipped to Anchorage, loaded with tools and provisions, and navigated down Cook Inlet to Iliamna Bay, then portaged across into Iliamna Lake. From that time until death, Jack and Lyn regarded Iliamna Lake as home; they loved both the area and the people in the Lake country.
As life partners, Jack and Lyn worked together for over 60 years. Together they homesteaded on Iliamna Lake, fished salmon in Bristol Bay, founded an air taxi and a fuel business, raised four children and travelled widely. During the course of their lives they befriended and mentored numerous adventurers young and not so young — teaching them to read and to work, to hunt, to fly or to fish, introducing them to wild places, welcoming them into their home and generally sharing Alaska with them. Jack took particular interest in the complex genealogies of the people among whom he lived, and he could trace the family trees of many of the principal families in the Iliamna watershed for multiple generations using memory alone.
Although he was an accomplished bush pilot for 50 years, and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 60, Jack loved commercial fishing best of all. He laid claim to having the first motorized fishing vessel in Bristol Bay, a 5-horse outboard on a setnet skiff. He was well known in the ports of Bristol Bay as one of the last living sailboat fishermen of that area, and always described himself as a fisherman. Jack also loved being a part of the family of God, and he was serious about helping to advance God’s kingdom here on earth in multiple ways. He accepted Jesus as his personal savior and he enjoyed spending time with those who shared his faith, as well as sharing his faith with those who saw things differently. Having married a missionary, he often found ways to assist other folks as they shared the news of God’s love and forgiveness.
Jack is preceded in death by his wife Evelyn and his sister Jean Leonard, as well as his son-in-law, Douglas TenKley, and great-granddaughters Samantha Anne, Jesse Lyn, and Kathryn Jo Davis.
He leaves behind his daughters, Karen Nicolson of Great Falls, Mont., with husband Grahame, and sons Carl, Christopher, and Cameron Nicolson; Jaclyn Wilder of Port Alsworth, Alaska, with husband David Wilder and their children Laura, Michelle and Lyle; Judith TenKley of Vancouver, Wash., and children Reid, Rian, and Krystal; and son Jerold Vantrease of Homer with his wife Debra and children Kristin, Jackie, Joshua, and Mariah. Great grandchildren total a lucky 17 and reside in New York City, Portland, Ore., Honolulu, Hawaii, Port Alsworth, and in Heaven. Jack is already missed more than words can express.
The family wishes to express their extreme gratitude to the entire staff at the Friendship Terrace assisted living facility in Homer for the highly dedicated, loving and proficient care they lavished on Jack while he lived there. He was very pleased with his choice in living arrangements, as were we all.