Walter Johnson, 92, respected Dena’ina elder from the Iliamna Lake region, died peacefully on May 23, 2015. Services will be held Saturday, May 30, 2015, with an open casket viewing at 2:30 p.m. and funeral at 3 p.m. at Glacierview Baptist Church, 960 East End Road.
Walter was born in Kaskanek to Anna Rickteroff and Alf Johnson on June 14, 1922, the youngest of seven children. He lived most of his early years with his mother in Lonesome Bay, living a subsistence lifestyle where Walter learned the skills to become a successful fisherman, trapper, and carpenter. Walter traveled extensively throughout the region, by walking, rowing and sailing long distances. He never attended a day of school but by using the resourcefulness that characterized him, he taught himself enough reading and math to enable him to navigate life successfully.
One of Walter’s favorite activities as a teenager was skiing. He ordered skis from Sears, and with his cousin, Buck Delkettie, skied many of the hills and mountains around Lonesome Bay.
Walter began going to Bristol Bay at age 14. His older brothers taught him how to fish in double-ender sailboats. Walter became one of the Bay’s most recognized fisherman in his boat, the Hornet. His 60 years fishing were his primary source of income, allowing him the freedom to live in various places during his adult life including Pedro Bay, Tommy Point, Anchorage and California. In the latter part of his life, Walter and his wife, Annie, divided their time between Homer in the winter and Pedro Bay in the summer.
Walter married Annie Mycee May 14, 1947. Together they had three children: Johnny, Howie and Ruthie, and also raised Annie’s two other children, Trygve Olson and Ethel Adcox. Walter’s vast knowledge of the Iliamna Lake region, its people and the Dena’ina language and customs led him to be the focus of two books, “Sukdu Nel Nuhtghelnek: I’ll Tell You a Story,” by James Kari and “Walter’s Story,” by Barbara Jacko Atwater.
“Walter was a humble, gentle and kind man who was a surrogate uncle to all who knew him. He learned the guitar at a young age, and his wonderful playing was always the musical highlight of any worship service he attended,” his family said. “Walter’s passing is a great loss to the Iliamna Lake region and to Alaska. All who knew and respected him as not only a bearer of knowledge about the past but as a true gentleman will miss him.
“We are happy and thankful to say Walter has gone to be with his LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.”
He is preceded in death by his siblings, Gerrasim Sours, Mike Jensen, Nicolai Jensen, Alma (Jensen) Jacko, Virginia Jensen and Gus Jensen; his son, Howie Johnson; his wife, Annie; and grandson, Tory Olson.
Walter leaves behind his step children, Trygve Olson and Ethel Adcox; his son, Johnny Johnson; his daughter, Ruthie Andree; grandchildren, Linda Olson, Gina Arafiles, Travis Olson, John Allen Adcox, Debbie Abujbara, AnaMarie Lamont, Shannon Nanalook, Jessie Vasquez, Howie Andree, Deannie Andree, and many great grandchildren.