Will Tomlinson Jr.
Feb. 18, 1927-Nov. 14, 2016
World War II veteran and Pioneer Alaskan Will Hodge Tomlinson Jr. died at Homer’s South Peninsula Hospital on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, of natural causes. Will died when he wanted, loved and touched as he left.
He was born on Feb. 18, 1927, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to Will Hodge Tomlinson and Virginia Evelyn Durham.
Adulthood found him at the age of 17, in 1944, as the youngest man aboard the USS Burleigh preparing for the amphibious attack of Okinawa, Japan. As so many of The Greatest Generation, he was a boy having to be a man.
After the war, Will attended the University of Tennessee, Martin Branch for two years. He came to the Territory of Alaska in March 1949. In a bar, in the town of Spenard, Will was asked if he knew how to survey. Answering yes, he subsequently led survey crews for the Territory of Alaska District Engineers, locating early warning Distant Early Warning, or DEW, sites throughout western and northern Alaska. Will’s prior survey experience was five days at the age of 15 working as a chainman. Typical of the time, he like other Alaska pioneers, took on tasks with no formal training with only gumption as their guide.
The same year Will came to Alaska, he met Courtney Alice Bates on a blind date. Some six weeks later, back in town from the bush, he proposed on their second date. Five days later on Dec. 2, 1949, they were married in a union of almost 57 years. Newly married, they proved up on a homestead in Willow, Alaska.
Will joined the Anchorage Police Department in May 1952, and in 1965, attended the FBI Academy. Retiring in 1970, Will and Courtney decided to try living outside on a small gentlemen’s farm in Sweet Home, Ore. With the start of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, they returned to Alaska. Will worked for NANA Security on the pipeline and then O’Neill Security at Prudhoe Bay, retiring a second time in 1986. In retirement the couple moved to MacDonald Spit near Seldovia, Alaska. They resided there until 2002, when Courtney’s illness required relocation to Homer, Alaska, for the winter seasons.
In October 2015, Will attended the Last Frontier Honor Flight. The Tomlinson family wishes to thank Will Hutt from Homer for traveling to Washington, D.C., with their father. Attending was one of the highlights of his life. Special thanks to Kelly Jackman, also of Homer, for the three years of personal care she provided which allowed Will to live independently. Thanks to Dr. William Bell and the staff of South Central Hospital for all of the kind care and help in dad’s last days.
Will is survived by his son, Derek Arthur Tomlinson and wife Sherry of Anchorage; daughter, Denise Withers of Sun City, Calif.; granddaughters, Kimberly and Chuck King of Pahrump, Nev., and Jennifer Word of Atchison, Kans.; greatgranddaughters, Lindsey King, Lacy King and Miranda Word; and great-grandson, Alexander Word.
He was preceded in death by son, James David Tomlinson in 1998; and Courtney in 2006.