Harley Hess

Harley Hess

1926-Jan. 27, 2016

Former Perl Island homesteader Harley Hess, 90, died Jan. 27, 2016, in Prineville, Ore.

Harley asked that no services were to be held and that his ashes be spread on Perl Island . 

“Ninety years young, he was an extraordinary human being who delighted in life. Whether traveling, playing music, writing his books or mingling among his many friends, Harley was a man who exemplified everything there is about being alive. Slow to judge, eager to grin, Harley found the connectedness with every person he met on his path. Harley was ever ready to join the party, muster to the cause and stand for what he believed was right,” his family said.

Harley was born in 1926 in Port Townsend, Wash.

During World War II, Harley served as a navigator and radar mechanic on B-17 and B-29 airplanes with the U.S. Army Air Corps in the South Pacific.

A finer gentleman you will rarely see. Either attired in Western wear or Cuban cigar shirt, Harley won the hearts of anyone who ever heard him play accordion or piano.

Harley homesteaded one of the Chugach Islands at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula in 1958. He was known as the homesteader of Perl Island. His claim to fame was playing every honky-tonk from Homer to Anchorage and Seward and beyond. He loved people — all people. Harley later converted his homestead to a lodge. As a bush pilot, he would fly guests to the lodge.

Harley embodied the meaning of acceptance and unconditional love. Later, Harley got himself a ranch in Eugene, a ranchero in McMinnville, then lived near Phoenix, finally making Prineville, Ore., his home.

“We will miss Harley, one of our favorite people. The outdoors was his temple, his belief in God underscored by every Alaska sunset, every Arizona daybreak, every Alaska Midnight Sun,” his family said.

“To our friend: We will miss you. You have taught us so very much. May you find yourself in your Permanent Residence, forever filled with the glory and splendor of eternal life. Adieu.”

Harley is survived by his sister, Ruth “Boots” Palmer, and his nephews and his nieces, all in the Puget Sound, Wash., area. His many friends include those far off and abroad, and from Alaska to Arizona, New York to Seattle.

Anyone wishing to tell their story of how Harley touched their lives please contact his family at harleydhess@yahoo.com. “Our family would love to hear from you,” they said.