Joe Leman

Joe Leman

Feb. 20, 1920 – Oct. 7, 2020

Joe Leman, 100, died on Oct. 7, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer.

He was born Feb. 20, 1920 in the family home in Ninilchik to Joe and Irene (Cooper) Leman, the fourth of eight children. Joe’s first language was Russian, but he became fluent in English after he started school as a first grader.

Joe helped his family with fishing, hunting, trapping, gold mining, clam digging, gardening, berry picking and raising foxes, and, as a young teenager, built and operated fish traps with his older brother Nick. He also built wooden skiffs and was regarded as the best clam digger in Ninilchik well into middle age. He was also known for making smoked and pickled salmon.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, pulling the United States into war, Joe was one of several young men from Ninilchik who answered the call. He joined the U.S. Army, was assigned to duty at Fort Richardson, and was discharged as a Private First Class on Aug. 7, 1946.

After the World War II, Joe returned to fishing with traps until this method was banned when Alaska became a state in 1959. He briefly entered into a business venture with his older sister Juanita and her husband Russ Bertoson to start a fish processing plant in Ninilchik that became part of Ocean Beauty Icicle today. However, this wasn’t the life for Joe, so he returned to fishing.

Joe briefly tried drift gillnetting on Cook Inlet, but most of his post-statehood fishing was at a setnet site in Corea Bend north of Ninilchik with his brother Harry and nephews Butch and Dan Leman. At age 80, Joe hiked with Butch from Ninilchik Point to Humpy Point along the beach, a distance of 26 miles, to re-live his earlier days. Then he “retired” to fish part-time with his brother Nick at Ninilchik Point for several more years.

Joe cared for his mother until she died in 1985 and in Sept. 1986, after 66 years as a single man, married Selma Oskolkoff Rinehart, who had been widowed. He enjoyed traveling with Selma and his sister Juanita, and visited 49 of the 50 states, several Canadian provinces, and Russia. Joe liked watching sports, particularly baseball and football, and playing cards. He was active in the American Legion and church.

Joe is survived by his wife, Selma; sister, Betty Porter (Soldotna); seven step-children; 12 nieces and nephews; and other extended family.

Funeral services and burial were held on on Oct. 10, 2020 at the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik.

Arrangements were by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.