Photo by Toni Ross

Photo by Toni Ross

Retired pilot explores new vocation: writing

More than 45 years in Alaska has given Bill Richardson plenty of life experience — from pilot to fisherman, teacher to computer tech, businessman to sailor. He’s lived in Homer, Seldovia, Kodiak and Juneau, to name a few. As he settled into retirement in Anchor Point, Richardson decided to try something he hadn’t done yet: writing books. 

After encouraging other Alaskans to write down their experiences, Richardson says he finally decided to follow his own advice. Nearly three years ago he published two e-books, “Corky’s Courage: An Alaskan Adventure” and “Corky and the Alaskan Oldtimer: An Alaskan Adventure Mystery.” This spring, after requests from friends, he had both books printed in hard copy. 

“The wonders of Alaska that I have seen and participated in are awe inspiring,” he says. “By writing these stories I can try to share many of my own adventures with folks who know about, or would like to know more about, this great land.”

Although the stories are fictional, they are composites of things that he’s done and places he’s been. 

Richardson learned to fly as a teenager and spent 25 years as a pilot, passenger and observer in small airplanes. Both of his books center around a level-headed woman pilot named “Corky” and her adventures flying people, cargo and the occasional rescue in Southcentral Alaska. 

Eventually, a back injury caused Richardson to give up flying, but not his love for it.

“I’ve had enough adventures to know when to stop,” he says with a smile. “If you can’t fly safe, you don’t fly. Know yourself, know your plane, know your weather.”

Since his books have become available, Richardson says that many folks have shared their own adventures with him. 

“It’s been a privilege to hear their stories,’” he says. “There’s no need to exploit violence, sex or profanity to ensure a good read when there is such a great source of information available to write about: Alaska and all of its people.”

Richardson says that one of the challenges with writing is the time it takes away from other projects, like the house that he and his wife of 27 years, Kathy, are building. Roughly 85 percent of their supplies have been salvaged from the Homer landfill, building projects and yard sales.  

“We’d see somebody building something and we’d stop and just ask them, ‘Would you like us to haul that away for you?’” Richardson says that he and his wife believe in conservation — and why let all that stuff go to waste?

“It’s a heartbreak to go up there at that dump and see what people throw away,” he says.

In the kitchen the reclaimed list goes something like this: wood for the ceiling and ceiling trim, window frames and sills as well as kitchen shelving came from crates and old boards. The Richardsons pulled out any nails and staples, then planed the wood, cut it to size, sanded and finished it with a coat of Varathane. Richardson traded some work for the counter tops and cabinets, which were sanded and then repainted. The sink and faucet are both reclaimed and the gas stove was bought at a garage sale and converted to propane. 

“We literally had piles…eight feet high and just a little pathway down to where we were working, of stuff,” he says.

He says you wouldn’t know it now, looking at their empty yard. If a piece of wood wasn’t fit for any part of the construction process, they just turned it into firewood. 

Everything in the house is built to either meet or exceed the current building codes. The Richardsons have also documented the whole building process and Richardson says he’s thought about writing a book on it sometime. But for now, Corky is enough to keep him busy. He’s already working on her next adventure. 

With a twinkle in his eye, Richardson states his plans for the future: “Get more books written…Stay healthy…Keep my wife happy!”

“Corky’s Courage, An Alaskan Adventure,” is available for $11.95 and “Corky and the Alaskan Oldtimer: An Alaskan Adventure Mystery” is $18.95. Both can be purchased as e-books at www.thebookpatch.com or in print at the Homer Bookstore, the Homer Farmers’ Market and Anchor Point Natural Foods. Further up the road they are available at the Peddler’s Gift Shop in Ninilchick and the Ninilchick General Store.

Toni Ross is a freelance writer living in Homer.

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