April 22, 1925 – Feb. 18, 2017
Greatly loved and surrounded by family, Jim Rearden, 91, died unexpectedly Feb. 18, 2017, at the South Peninsula Hospital, Homer. The family has planned a private graveside service for Feb. 23, 2017, with a memorial tribute planned at a later date.
Jim was born on April 22, 1925, in Petaluma, Calif., the second son of Barton and Grace Rearden. After finishing high school at age 17, and with his father’s permission, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in March 1943, and served on board the USS Lovering as a sonar man in the Central Pacific. After an honorable discharge he enrolled in Oregon State College at Corvallis, earning a bachelor of science degree in fish and game management in 1948. He was accepted by the University of Maine, where he earned a master of science degree in 1950. He was then hired by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to organize a new wildlife department. He taught as head of that department for four years.
He resigned his university position in 1955, and became a full time freelance writer and photographer. In 1959 he was employed by the Alaska Department of Fisheries in Cook Inlet, and made area biologist for the newly formed Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cook Inlet, a position he held for nearly 10 years.
In 1970 he became the Outdoors Editor for Alaska Magazine, a position he held for nearly 20 years. Simultaneously he was Field Editor for Outdoor Life magazine. He wrote approximately 500 magazine features for 40 different magazines around the world including National Geographic, Audubon, the German and French GEO, National Wildlife and International Wildlife.
In 1970 he was appointed to the Alaska Board of Fish and Game where he served for five years. In 1975 he was appointed to the Alaska Board of Game and served seven years. In the 1970s President Gerald Ford appointed him to the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere where he served 18 months.
Jim has written 28 books on Alaska subjects. He was named Historian of the year in 1999 by the Alaska Historical Society for his book “Alaska’s Wolf Man.” In 2005 the University of Alaska Fairbanks awarded Jim an honorary degree for his teaching, wildlife conservation work and writing. In 2011, the Alaska Humanities Forum honored Jim with the Governor’s Award for distinguished service to the Humanities. In 2016, the Homer Council on the Arts named Jim the Artist of the Year for outstanding professional accomplishments and service to the community.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, a sister, grandson and former wife, Ursula Rodgers. He is survived by five children, Kathy Rearden, Mary (Bruce) Bookman, Mike (Nita) Rearden, Nancy (Ken) Kleine, and Jim K. Rearden; three step children, Terry Sagmoen (Loulare), Mike Sagmoen and Tamara (Charles) Halkett; his wife of 51 years, Audrey; 20 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and many close, dear friends.