May 2011: End of the Trail

Dean Leray Wilson

Trapper, Trader and Educator

Courtesy Ada Wilson  

Dean Leray Wilson will be remembered for his commitment and contributions to the Alaska trapping community. He died in his Kenny Lake home on Oct. 31 at the age of 69.

During World War II, Wilson’s father helped with the construction of the Alaska Highway, served in the U.S. Army in Alaska, and became a trapper in the Northway area. In the late 1940s the family moved to Northway, where Dean and his siblings learned from their father and other community members how to hunt, fish and trap. Wilson attended high school in Sitka and Homer.

In 1963, Wilson married Ada Tega of Tanacross and, in 1966, the couple acquired land along the Edgerton Highway near Kenny Lake, where they built a home and raised three sons.


Wilson worked in construction, firefighting and oil exploration, but he considered trapping to be his primary livelihood. He became increasingly more successful with his trapping and began buying and selling furs to major markets. Soon, he and Ada started Klondike Furs. Wilson traveled throughout Alaska to buy furs, and to markets in Canada, Europe, Asia and the Lower 48 to sell them.

In the 1980s Wilson wrote The Alaskan Trapper’s Handbook. It was based on his experience as well as lessons he learned from many older trappers, including his father. The book was reprinted several times.

In 1990, Wilson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and began treatment. Wilson was a lifetime member of the Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 35 in Delta, and he was accepted into the Kluti Kaah tribe of Copper Center. For many years he volunteered at Kenny Lake School to help students with reading, and served on multiple school boards and support groups. He also advised Alaska Department of Fish and Game groups on projects related to wolf-management issues. He was an active member of Kenny Lake Community Chapel.

He was involved with the National Trappers Association and the AlaskaTrappers Association. Over the years he held various leadership positions, attended many annual meetings and wrote occasional pieces for the publications of both organizations.

Wilson was an Alaska Trappers Association Trapper of the Year in 1985 and, when the Alaska Trappers Hall of Fame was established in 1997, he was the first person selected for induction. The Alaska Trappers Association established the annual Dean Wilson Scholarship.

Kathy Triggs Ariel, 57, died Aug. 10. She was a lifelong Alaskan, born in Juneau, who worked for 30 years in various departments of the federal government serving Native people. She was recently elected vice president of her labor union. She was a member of Faith Christian Community and The Armour of Light Ministries.

Rodney W. “Rod” Burgh, 88, died Nov. 26. After graduating from Ketchikan High School in 1940, he earned a business administration degree, worked as a purser with the Alaska Steamship Co., and served in the U.S. Merchant Marines. His banking career in Alaska lasted 30 years, and he and his wife, Sheila, raised four children.

Eunice (Naumoff) Foster, 67, died Jan. 2. She was born and raised in Karluk, and attended Mt. Edgecombe High School before returning to live in Larsen Bay and Kodiak. She enjoyed traveling to Las Vegas, Hawaii and Texas, playing cards, bingo and video games with her grandchildren, and watching sports.

Virginia Ruth “Ginny” Brown Hyatt, 86, died Nov. 8. She was a well-known pilot and advocate for aviation flight safety who had lived in Alaska since 1965. After retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she worked for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation. That group now awards an annual scholarship in her name. Brown co-hosted Hangar Flying a weekly public broadcast television program.

Janet Ingersoll, 73, died Oct. 14. She lived in Anchorage, where she was a registered nurse in the U.S. Air Force and at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Ingersoll was the first nurse to take the Alaska State Board Exams, and subsequently was the first Alaska nurse to be commissioned as an officer in the armed services. She enjoyed astrology, music, reading books, the arts, computers, photography and family.

Charlotte Diane Jensen, 72, died Sunday Dec. 12. From 1963 to 1966 she worked for the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. She married John Jensen in 1965. Jensen served for the Elections Commission, and was involved with Fur Rondy, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Pioneers of Alaska Women’s Igloo No. 4, and Cooperative Extension Homemakers. Jensen loved to cook.

Clifford R. Phillips, 80, died Dec. 3. At the age of six, he moved to Ketchikan. He worked in the fishing industry his entire life, pioneered many seafood processing and preserving methods, and traveled the world promoting and selling Alaska Wild Salmon. In the 1940s he served in the U.S. Army in the Aleutians.

Joseph Henry Rosness, 91, died Dec. 7. He was born in Seward. Rosness attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and received an appointment to West Point, graduating with Air Corps wings in 1943. He served in World War II and received many awards. He served in the Pentagon and at Elmendorf Air Force Base. He met and married Betty Pyeatt Beaubien in Wichita, Kan., where he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command.

James Darryl Seybert, 72, died Nov. 22. As a young man he spent many years in Pilot Point, where he commercial-fished and obtained his pilot’s license, and returned to the community after retirement. He spent the majority of his business career at Boeing. He loved traveling, reading, and having fun with his family and friends.

Katherine E. Shaw, 101, died Dec. 19. As a child she worked in the family bakery, and later for the state of Alaska. She married George Shaw in 1927. She was on the board that designed and built the Alaska Centennial Museum, and served on the board of The Shrine of St. Therese. She volunteered at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, the Visitor’s Center and the Golden North Salmon Derby. After retirement, she visited her children and others in the Lower 48 and traveled the world with her sister, Frances.

Notices are limited, because of space, to names of those who have achieved pioneer status through many years in the North, or who have made significant contributions to the state. Submissions for End of the Trail may be sent to

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