Thomas J. Aberle
Sept. 22, 1954 – March 28, 2018
Former Homer resident Tom Aberle, 63, died March 28, 2018 at his home in Juneau. “Tom made his final tele-turn into epic powder March 28,” his family wrote.
A gentle, strong, and hardworking man with a resonant laugh and deep love of his family, Tom was a lifelong fisherman, an artist in fine carpentry, and beautiful skier. From riding his bike to any promising lake near his Minnesota childhood home, to 32 years working his setnet site in Prince William Sound, to trolling for kings on his water cycle near Outer Point at the crack of dawn, Tom caught fish. Tom was a good captain with a faithful, hardworking crew (Sonny Willard, Brandon Maxwell, and Sean Maxwell) and his creative innovations (such as an outdoor shower with endless hot water) were emulated by his summertime setnet neighbors in Main Bay.
On either side of the commercial sockeye salmon season, Tom’s home (crafted by his hand inside and out) was along another body of water: Gold Creek, in “the flats” in Juneau. Tom shared the 1935 remodeled bungalow with the love of his life, Iola Young, whom he met in 1989 on “the best blind date ever.” The fateful rendezvous was orchestrated by Tom’s childhood buddy, Dale Chavie (and wife Charlene Dolphin,) with whom he’d come to Alaska in 1977. Dale was best man and Charlene officiated at Tom and Iola’s wedding in the elder Aberles’ living room on Thanksgiving Day, 1994.
Prior to moving to Juneau in 1991 to be with Iola, Tom lived in Homer, Alaska, where he built a cabin, folk danced with many pretty women, met his best buddy and fellow craftsman Fred Pfeil, and proudly earned the lifetime title of “Mo-Fo” by performing the Kachemak Crawl in 1986 at the ski games on Crossman Ridge.
Born Sept. 22, 1954, in Faribault, Minnesota, Tom experienced a quintessential Midwestern, small town, Catholic upbringing amongst his six siblings. A scrawny kid when he graduated from Bethlehem Academy in 1972, he never took for granted the strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility he built later in life through hard physical labor (he said the best job he ever had was splitting wood), hauling in nets in 48-hour periods, mountain biking and downhill skiing. Hiking snowy ridges and telemarking across the slopes before the season opened, he was known as “Tele-Tom” amongst Eaglecrest ski area die-hards. Many years he skied over a hundred days.
More recently, his grandchildren, Isabella (10) and Beckett (4) Davidson, learned to ski with their grandpa — from not long after they started walking until just a couple weeks ago, when a fast-moving cancer caught up with him. Tom was never too old to try new things. At 60, he took up the mandolin. And, last fall, he became a “new father.” After 30 years of being dad to Iola’s daughter, Naomi, she and Tom together made it official with formal adoption.
Other family members who will dearly miss this man include Tom’s mom, Jean (Don, deceased); Naomi’s husband, Matt Davidson; brothers Dan (Jody), Steve (Caryn), and John (Beth); sisters Sue Schoekemoehl; Donna Peterson (Kent), Ann Thompson (Steve); sisters-in-law Christine Smith (Rick), Laureen Young (Mike); brother-in-law Russell Young; and many nieces, nephews, and extended family.
A special thank you goes to Dr. Danny Kim (Valley Medical in Juneau) and Dr. Meaghan O’Malley (Virginia Mason in Seattle) for making sure Tom had as many lucky days as possible, each one filled with love and gratitude and hugs and kisses from Isabella and Beckett.
Family and friends will celebrate what a cool and kind guy Tom was on May 12 at Eaglecrest Ski Lodge in Juneau. Details to follow. In lieu of flowers or other remembrances, Tom asked that donations be made in his name to ORCA, the adaptive sports and recreation program for which he was a volunteer on the slopes (3225 Hospital Drive, #300, Juneau, AK, 99801); the Southeast Alaska Food Bank (1000 Crazy Horse Drive, Juneau, AK 99801); or the Glory Hole emergency shelter and soup kitchen (247 S. Franklin, Juneau, AK, 99801). Thoughts may be sent to the family at 429 W. 10th, Juneau, AK, 99801.