Frank M. ‘Papaw’ Wise

Frank M. Wise, 84, died Jan. 10, 2015. A celebration of life was held Jan. 17, 2015, at Glacierview Baptist Church, with burial at Hickerson Memorial Cemetery on Diamond Ridge Road.

Frank was born August 1930, in Seminole, Okla., to Rufus Earl and Alice Jackman Wise. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Janelle Collins, and brothers Bobby Dale Wise, Ray Nolan Wise, Donald Wise, Harold Wise and Leo Wise.

He is survived by his wife, Cora Mae, of 64 years; five children, Richard and Eileene Wise, Nilane and John Lasko, Katherine Wise, Nathan and Virginia Wise, and John and Lisa Wise; grandchildren, Stephanie and Jeremy Young, Marty and Joni Wise, Tina and Ash Moore; Matthew, Kady and Frankie Lasko; Sam Wise, Jessica Veldstra, Jake Wise, Janyce and Cameron Larrick; Josiah Wise, Cory Wolf, and Brett, TJ and Sarah Wise; great-grandchildren Reece and Brennen Young; Brianna, Devin, Camden, Layci and Andrea Wise; Maddie, Corbin and Gavin Moore; Isaac Lasko, Patrick, Rebekah, Daniel and Talia Veldstra; Tristyn and Franklin Larrick, and Micah Wolf; sister, Roxie and her husband, Charles Fowler; brother Charles Richard and his wife Doris Wise; and many nieces and nephews.

Frank grew up in Broken Bow, Okla., and Horatio Texarkana, Ark. He was active in show horses and rodeo and horse training. He was a very independent, adventurous soul, known, at age 10 and 11, to take a horse and pack mule into the hills of Oklahoma to camp for the weekend. His horse Smoky would walk a mile on his hind legs with Frank on his back.

Frank joined the Navy in 1947. He experienced many adventures, including going to Adak and Kodiak. Frank met Cora Mae when she was 14 working in an ice cream parlor. It started with a bet, a kiss and a slap with “I’ll fix you — I’ll marry you, young man!” Two years later in 1950, they married. Three years into the marriage Frank asked if Cora Mae was willing to move to Alaska. Cora Mae said she would go anywhere for a year. Sixty-one years later, Cora is here to stay. He transferred from Red River Arsenal to Elmendorf in 1953. He claims she didn’t ask to go home to Arkansas until a day after her year was up.

After a year in Anchorage, in the summer of 1954, they took a trip to Homer, saw Kachemak Bay and decided to move. Their years here have been an adventure. They bought the old George Dahlgren homestead on Crossman Ridge and then the Jake McLay homestead at the top of McLay Road. In 1956 Frank worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and territory of Alaska, then the state of Alaska as airport manager in charge of many small airports in Alaska. He surveyed many airfields all over Alaska after the 1964 earthquake to access the damage. In 1965 the family started commercial fishing on the F/V Icelander. In 1970 Frank built the F/V Kachemak Lady and continued seining herring and salmon, pot shrimping and longline halibut fishing with an attempt at clam dredging as a family. Frank was part of the “Blue Fleet.” In 1971 an injury changed what Frank could do. He fought pain the rest of his life but still tried to do lots of things. In 1976 Frank was forced by his injury to retire from fishing and his sons took over.

Frank had many talents and worked hard to support his family. He worked for Jake McLay as a big game guide, mostly for moose and bear at Ptarmigan Head in the Caribou Hills, where he guided American and international hunters in fulfilling their dream hunts. He worked for Arndt Brothers Construction all over Alaska and in Homer helped build the first phase of the sewer system. Frank worked as a longshoreman tying up ships and dock work at the Homer harbor and docks. He worked for George Hamm building boats and running his shop, learned how to fiberglass and used that knowledge to create other products he used in life.

Frank hunted moose and bear and occasionally rabbit and squirrel locally for his own family freezer. He raised chickens, turkeys and rabbits by the hundreds and had family “parties” to process the meat for the freezer. A chicken plucking party with an electric chicken plucker is hard to beat as a family bonding event. 

Frank took up cooking for construction crews and worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doing research in Alaska waters. He also was an avid gardener. He raised a huge garden every year with extra to share with those in need. He raised large quantities of dahlias, gladiolus, lilies and anything that would grow and look beautiful in the yards and flowerbeds for Glacierview Baptist Church until he was unable to do the work. In the fall, he would cut all the flowers, make arrangements and gave them away because the bulbs needed to be dug up, cleaned and stored dry for the winter. The bulbs were split to make more plants and the family had more than $40,000 worth of dahlia bulbs at one point. It was a lot of work but a beautiful reward enjoyed by the whole town. Many a morning at 3 a.m. you could drive by the church and see him watering the flowerbeds. He was up and they needed water.

Frank served as God’s servant in the church and ministry as long as he was physically able. He was a spiritual leader, worked with the youth, told stories of “Molly the Moth,” did repairs as necessary, taught Sunday school classes and worked in Awana. He cared daily for 20 plus Shetland ponies for Higher Ground Baptist Bible Camp at the old Gregoire homestead for many years until the camp was more centrally located in Sterling. Frank was involved with local youth groups and was active in the local ski club. Frank served as president of the PTA for several years. 

Frank and Cora Mae always provided wonderful meals and used the home God gave them to house visitors and missionaries. One missionary needed a break from the field in India and stayed for six months by invitation. At his son Rick’s graduation from seminary in Indiana, in an auditorium of 10,000 people, the speaker unexpectedly honored Frank and Cora Mae for their hospitality and generosity — he had been in their home. The Alaska Highway was traveled many times over the years with adventure on every trip. 

Frank was a wonderful storyteller; the truth seemed fictional when told by Frank. His adventures are legendary. Every situation, no matter how difficult, eventually ended up with humor thrown into the mix. He tackled many things naturally that most of us would say could not be done. He brought a D8 Cat off a remote frozen lake with a broken leg because his boss told him it needed to be done, but forgot about his leg. Frank had already successfully done the job by the time his boss called and said don’t worry about it; I forgot about your leg. 

Frank was a friend to anyone in need. If he saw a need and could provide help, even at a sacrifice to himself, he helped and never expected anything in return. 

And then there was “Papaw”: fishing and camping trips, a zing wire in the back yard, an ice chute a little too fast and slick for the kids to sled down, a worm farm where he paid his grandkids a penny for every two worms they brought him, teaching about life and how to fix any issue with ingenuity, reading to the little ones, riding the old tractor while plowing the garden. Everyday lessons of life became adventures with Papaw.

“He was patient, kind, loving but firm. You always knew he loved God and you. Frank lived a humble life, was a godly example and will be missed by all the lives he touched,” his family said.