Out of respect for the families that
have shared their earthquake stories on this page, please do
not re-print or re-publish this information in ANY FORM, as I have
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is protected by copyscape.
In Loving Memory
The stories you find on this page
were written and submitted by the family and friends
of those that lost their lives as the result of the 1964
Alaska Earthquake. If you would like to include the story of
your loved one, please contact me.
Rest In Peace
AND EDDIE ANDERSON (of Kodiak)
I have done exhaustive searches to find out who Rudy and Eddie Anderson
are; I am not even certain that they were related. All I know for sure is
that they both were on all of the 3/27/1964 fatality lists for Kodiak. In
my search, I did find two brothers: Rudy Anderson and Edwin Anderson who
were raised in an Ouzinkie children's home together; Rudy was born about
1934 and Edwin "Eddie" was born about 1935. I'm wondering if they are
brothers who perished in the tsunamis that hit Kodiak, but I can't be certain.
If you have any information on these two people, PLEASE contact me.
MARY ANDERSON (of Kodiak)
Mary Anderson was was last seen by Chuckey
Mackey aboard one of the Kadiak Fishery boats at the dock in Kodiak. He said
she had a young girl with her. Three days after the tsunami hit, her body
was found in the lazarette of the sunken boat near the King Crab Cannery
dock. (Interview done with Chuck Mackey in 1994 by
(I have never found mention of who the little girl was and
her body was not with Mary. If you can add to Mary Anderson's story, please
contact me: Coleen).
EARL STUART FAMILY (of Valdez)
"Earl Stuart, his wife Sammie Marie
Stuart and the couples three children were all lost in the collapse of
the Valdez dock. They had driven on the dock in the family car just minutes
before the disaster. The children are Larry 12, Deborah 9 and Janice 7."
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 5/2/1964
JOHN "Sut" LARSEN (of Afognak)
[I'm] the niece of John Sut Larsen who perished off of Spruce Cape
when his boat, the F.V.Spruce Cape, was smashed by the second tsunami
wave. We were on the mountain and heard him say they just rode one wave,
a bigger one was coming, "tell my family I love them". Still makes me cry!
While Uncle Johnny's body was found on Spruce Cape, none of the others were
Eli Wasilie was also on the F.V.Spruce Cape when it went down; he
was from Larsen Bay. There is a Memorial for the crew of the F.V.Spruce
Cape at the Spruce Cape housing subdivision in Kodiak; the streets of
the subdivision are named after the lost fishermen.
Written by Olga DuVall Rowland of Afognak
JULIA KOMPKOFF (age 9)
NORMA JEAN KOMPKOFF (age 3)(of Chenega)
When the ground finally stopped shaking, the water went out
of the bay. The whole bay was empty! When the first giant wave was
coming in, my father[Nicholas Kompkoff] grabbed my three year old
sister Norma Jean and me and told Julia [a 9 year old sister] to follow
him and to run as fast as she could. The wave caught Julia as it was
going out and when my father reached out to grab her, he lost hold of
Norma. I remember seeing my godmother, Anna Vlasoff, standing in the doorway
of her house which was floating by. [Note from Coleen: Julia and Norma
Kompkoff and Anna Vlasoff all drowned].
Written by Carol Ann Kompkoff
JOHN "Sut" LARSEN (of Afognak)
HARRY NIELSON (of Afognak)
THEODORE PANAMARIOFF (of Afognak)
Eli Wasilie (of Larsen Bay)
Four fishermen, aboard the fishing boat, The Spruce
Cape, were on their way back to Afognak from Kodiak when the
tsunami hit the boat and broke it apart. The Skipper of the boat
was Afognak resident John "Sut" Larsen; the other three men were
Harry Nielson of Afognak, Eli Wasilie of Larsen Bay and Theodore
Panamarioff of the village of Ouzinkie. Larsen's body was found 4/3/1964
at Cape Spruce (ironically the landmark that his boat was named
after). The other bodies were never found. Information
courtesy of www.afognak.org
CHIEF SIMMIE ALEXANDROFF (of Kaguyak)
NICK ZEEDAR (of Kaguyak)
DONALD WYATT (of California)
The village of Kaguyak is at the head of Kaguyak Bay on
the southeast coast of Kodiak Island. The village is on a narrow ribbon
of land with the bay on one side and a fresh water lake on the other
side. When the earthquake hit, the villagers retreated to the safety
of a hill behind the lake.
The first wave lifted village skiffs out of the bay
and deposited them into the lake behind the village. Not knowing
that three more tsunami waves would completely obliterate their village,
some of the village men left the safety of the hill and went down
to the lake to try and secure the skiffs.
Shortly after the first wave, the men saw a flare about
2 miles from the village. One of the men, Walter Cohen, ran towards
the flare, and found two young Californian geologists, Donald and Joyce
Wyatt. Cohen told them to stay on high ground, but they insisted on going
back to the village with him. When the next wave hit, it caught Cohen
and the Wyatt's near the village church. Four villagers in a skiff
(Chief Simmie Alexandroff, Nick Zeedar, Victor Melovedoff and Max
Shelikoff) saw that Cohen and the Wyatt's were in trouble and pulled
them into the skiff.
The next wave washed 10 village houses and the church
out to sea and pushed the Chief's skiff back up to edge of the lake,
where Shelikoff, Cohen and Melovedoff jumped out onto dry ground. Donald
Wyatt literally threw his wife onto shore, and the 3 men took her up
the hill where the villagers were.
It was completely dark when the next wave flipped the
big skiff holding Chief Simmie, Nick Zeedar and Donald Wyatt. The
villagers last saw the Chief (by flashlight) trying to hang on to
the overturned skiff; his body was never found; Nick and Wyatt's
bodies were found the next day; Nicks was on the beach, tangled in the
rafters of a broken roof section and Wyatt's body was found floating
in the lake.
ROBERT HARRISON (of Valdez)
Robert Harrison is my Great Uncle. He was working
as a longshoreman on the dock the morning of the earthquake
unloading the freighter Chena. The first elementary school
in rebuilt Valdez (New Town) was named Growden Harrison Elementary
School. James Growden was also on the dock. Submitted by Mike Day
LOUIS McKENZIE (of Washington)
ROBERT McKenzie (age 7)(of Washington)
RICHARD McKenzie (age 6)(of Washington
TAMARA McKENZIE (age 3)(of Washington)
Monte (age 29) and Rita Kay (age 29) McKenzie of
Tacoma were camping on the beach with their 4 children at the
Beverly Beach State Park in Oregon. Monte was a Boeing engineer
and Rita was a Red Cross senior life saver.
The family was still mourning the tragic death
of their oldest child, nine year old Susannne, who died from
massive burns (8 months earlier) when her clothes caught fire while
lighting a camp fire. Monte, Rita and their 4 remaining children
were sleeping in a makeshift driftwood shelter, on the beach when
a series of tsunami waves hit. The first wave woke the family
up, covering them with water; they had to scramble, to get to a small
pocket of air at the top of their shelter. As the family exited the
shelter, they were being pelted and tumbled with logs, rocks and debris.
When the wave receded, the family gathered together and Rita was holding
the hands of two of her children when the next wave hit, knocking her unconscious
and taking all for children out to sea where they drowned (Louis 8, Bobby
7, Ricky 6, Tammi 3 and the family dog). Rescue deputies found Rita unconscious
and Monte in shock; both were taken to the hospital. Search parties looked
for the children for 3 days, but only Ricky's body was found. Mrs. McKenzie
was treated for a concussion and serious cuts and abrasions. All five McKenzie
children died within 8 months of each other, how tragic. In an attempt to
heal; the McKenzie's filed papers to adopt 4 children, but the stress of
the entire year ended their desire to adopt AND their marriage.
Rita Kay McKenzie (Jepson) died, 3/1/2014, just weeks shy of the
50th anniversary of the loss of her 5 children. The Support Officer
of Whatcom County, Washington was able to locate the cemetery where
the McKenzie children have memorial gravestones and has arranged
for Rita Kay's ashes to be buried there with them.
Rest in Peace
Suzanne Kay McKenzie 7/6/1954-8/31/1963
Louis Charles McKenzie 2/25/1956-3/27/1964
Robert Russell McKenzie 3/12/1957-3/27/1964
Richard Andrew McKenzie 3/9/1958-3/27/1964
Tamera Nannette McKenzie 6/26/1960-3/27/1964
Each child has a memorial grave stone in the Mt.
View Memorial Park in
Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington
WILLIAM JONES (of Seward)
My father was William Jones. We lived in
Seward but he was on a fishing boat in Kodiak.
The crew tried to take the boat out before the tidal wave hit.
My dad was the only one to die. But, what has always bothered
me is he is not mentioned in Kodiak deaths nor Seward.
He left behind a wife and 6 children. His body was never
found. For children, that is a terrible thing. Submitted by Debra Jones, Daughter of William Jones
JACK VAN BUSKIRK (of Valdez)
Jack Theodore Van Buskirk 1926-1964 died at Valdez.
He was the son of Ralph & Frances Elba Onalee Harris
VanBuskirk. Husband of Betty and father of Esther and Mark.
LEE STYER (of
Lee Marlin Styer, was the son of Leroy and Alice (Hayden)
Styer of Anchorage, he was 18. Lee had gone to the J.C.
Penny building in downtown Anchorage to visit a friend and
died there when the building collapsed during the 1964 Alaska
Earthquake. He was a senior in high school. Information and photo
submitted by Suzanne Cook Taylor
RICHARD JAY ROBINSON (of Valdez)
was 18 months old when my father was killed. My father,
Richard Jay Robinson, (1936-1964), he was the Branch
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
in Valdez, Alaska. He worked with his father, Rex Johnson Robinson,
they had a sawmill together. Richard also owned and operated a
21' cabin cruiser, named the "Nomad". He was also the #1 longshoreman
in Valdez. He, as well as many other men from town, were unloading
a ship down at the dock when the earthquake struck. His body, as well
as many others that were at the dock, was never found. Richard
was the husband of Sharon, and father of three children; Lynne, Richard
II, and Gregory, all survivors. (his son Lynne was killed 24 March
1978 - also on Good Friday) Written by Greg
Robinson, son of Richard Robinson
ARLENE WALLACE (of
JACK BUSHOR (of Kodiak)
Airman Gordon Wallace, his wife Arlene and 7 year old
step-son Jack Leroy Bushor (son of Jack Bushor Sr.) were
headed back to the Naval Base on Kodiak Island when the earthquake
struck. Gordon Wallace survived, but his wife's body
was found inside of the family car and his step-sons body was
found nearby. Arlene and son were buried in the Shenango Valley
Cemetery in Mercer Co., Pennsylvania. researcher
RICHARD VOSGIEN (of Kodiak)
MAURICE CURRY (of Kodiak)
The Art Vosgien family and the Maurice Curry family
were near Kalsin Bay on Kodiak Island when the earthquake
hit. The two families and their children tried to get back
to the Naval Base but 12 year old sons, from each family:
Richard Vosgien and Maurice Curry, were swept away by a tsunami
wave and drowned.
THERESA MICHELSON (age 6) (of Whittier)
RANDY MICHELSON (age 5) (of Whittier)
KEITH MICHELSON (age 2) (of Whittier)
MICKI BARNES (age 5)
RICKI BARNES (age 4)
VICKI BARNES (age 6)
My brother, Lewis Michelson and his partner David Barnes
were living together with their 6 children and had for at
least a year. The summer before, they had built a cabin
and they lived there all summer with the 6 kids and fished for
salmon. That winter, they moved into an empty house in Whittier
(I think it was in the lumber yard). There was a couple living in
one of the other houses in this "camp" as caretakers of the buildings.
The day of the quake, my brother had returned from being out on
the water a short time before the quake. It was my brothers
birthday. Lewis, Dave, 6 kids and a friend with her son had
gone to the caretaker couples house for a birthday celebration when
the earthquake came. Someone who was at the Base in Whittier
wrote to my mother and gave her this information. She said that
all that was left of the house was kindling!! My brother
was born on March 27th Good Friday and died on his birthday March
27th Good Friday. I think Dave Barnes was from South Dakota.
Their bodies were never found.
Written by Margaret
MICHELSON FAMILY and BARNES
FAMILY (of Whittier)
We left Whittier in the fall of 1964. I was working
for Union 76 at the time and I spent the summer after
the earthquake fueling equipment. There was more than
one tsunami. The one that reached the Head of the Bay (by the
tunnel) washed on shore far enough to destroy the Two Brothers
Lumber Co. The main tsunami was directed more at the town
of Whittier. It was about 45' high. My wife and I and 3 kids
ran from it because it was coming right at us. The other saw
mill Columbia Lumber Co., where most of the people were lost, was
located close to the end (tunnel end) of the existing small boat harbor.
Dave Barnes was my wife's cousins husband. their children
had been to our home many times. I have pictures of Dave
and Lewis Michelson's children at a birthday party with my kids at
our Union Oil apartment in Whittier. I also have pictures
of Leonard and Daisy Day who worked at the mill and were lost in
the tidal wave. Submitted by Dick Osburn
RICHARD JAY ROBINSON
My young husband, Richard Jay Robinson was one of those
killed on the dock in Valdez. The Stuart family (of 5)
were waiting for him to get off work so they could go for
a boat ride together. I was at work or I would have been there
also. We had three little ones. Written by Sharon
FRANK REID (of Cape St.
Frank Reid was a Coast Guardsman on Cape St. Elias
on the southwestern tip of Kayak Island. During the earthquake,
his leg was broken by falling rock. During the process
of being evacuated, by three fellow Guardsmen, a 10' wave
swept all four men out to sea. The three men that were rescuing
Reid managed to swim to safety, Frank Reid did not.
JESSE LEE HATCH (of
My father Jesse Lee Hatch was born in Seward, Alaska.
He was the son of Peter and Annie Hatch who met at the Jesse
Lee Home in Seward. My father was fishing out of Seward
the day the earthquake hit on a 56 foot boat called the CHRIS.
by Lisa Graham
NOAA Publication said this about Jesse
Lee Hatch: Had been out seal hunting
with Frank Walunga in a 14' wooden skiff; the two men were last
seen 12 minutes after earthquake by Dr. Starr and Bob Hayes; hunters
refused aide. Bodies never found.
JESSE LEE HATCH (of
Jesse Hatch was my Uncle, he was a commercial fisherman
who died in the 1964 earthquake, he was never found. They only
found pieces of the boat. Submitted by Pam Cook
(age 9) (of Chenega)
NORMA JEAN KOMPKOFF (age 3)
Nicholas Kompkoff Sr. and his nine year old daughter
were running from the Tsunami (Nicholas was carrying
his two younger daughters) when they were all hit by the wave.
Nicholas was thrown across a creek and lost grip on one
of the little girls. His youngest, Norma Jean age 3 as well
as his 9 year old daughter were swept away by the tsunami at
Chenega. Submitted by Avis Kompkoff
CLARENCE PAUL BLEDSOE
Clarence Paul Bledsoe was born November 8, 1920 in
Ellensburg, Washington to Howard and Vera (De Weese) Bledsoe.
Clarence was never married and had no children. Submitted by Elaine Bledsoe Wischnowsky
GERALD ZOOK (of
On March 27, 1964, I was a girl of 9 living with
my immediate family in Ketchikan. Both sets of grandparents,
as well as some aunts and uncles and cousins, were living
in Valdez. My mother's brother, Gerald Zook, was
among those who were lost. Gerald Lee (Hibner) Zook was a
longshoreman and was working on the dock at Valdez, as were
many others, when the earthquake hit. His body was never
found. Jerry, as he was called, was 27 and was to have
been married the following week. He was born in Wrangell,
Alaska and was the son of Nettie Prescott and Lyle Hibner. He served
in the U.S. Navy in the late 1950's and early 60's. Upon his
discharge he went to live in Valdez near his mother and stepfather
(Bill Zook). Submitted by Teresa Hayden Campbell
PAUL GREGORIEFF (of
HOWARD KRIEGER (of Valdez)
Howard Krieger and Paul Gregorieff were Valdez longshoreman
working on the freighter S. S. Chena when the
earthquake hit. Less than a minute after the earthquake started,
the ground supporting the Valdez dock collapsed and several
hundred feet of the dock slid into the bay. When that happened,
the Chena was severely pitched and the shifting cargo
crushed the two men.
ANNA VLASOFF (of Chenega)
Anna Vlasoff, of Chenega was last seen standing in the doorway
of her house, as it floated by when the tsunami hit. She was later
found dead on the beach
SAMMY PETTIKOFF (of Shuyak
I was eleven years old and in Port Williams, Shuyak
Island (north of Kodiak) when the earthquake hit. A local
Native Alaskan man named Sammy Pettikoff disappeared in Shuyak
Strait on his boat immediately after the earthquake, presumed
drowned in the tidal wave. Submitted by Tom
PAUL GREGORIEFF (of
My grandfather was Paul Gregorieff. He died
in the Good Friday earthquake. My grandmother was Mary
(Vlasoff) Gregorieff, she died in 2003. Thank you for
putting their names on your web site. Submitted
by Susan Reynaga
DUANNE CARRIKER (of
I lost a very dear friend, Rev. Duanne Carriker,
that day in Valdez. He was the minister of the
Assembly of God Church and worked as a longshoreman. He was
working on the dock at the time the quake hit. His
body was never recovered. He was 33 years old, had been in the
military and attended Bible College. His wife, small
son and daughter were flown out for safety later that night.
Bonnie Carriker is still at the radio station at North Pole,
Alaska. Submitted by Karen Welborn
DONALD MUELLER (of
Our father, Donald Mueller, was born in Davenport
Iowa on October 3, 1925. Dad attended school in
Hermann and was a senior in high school when he was called
to army service in W.W.II. He was inducted in January 1944
and served 8 ½ months in the 35th Infantry Division
and was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge. After discharge,
he had several jobs but re-enlisted in the army in October
1960 and was assigned to US Army Alaska Yukon Command. He was
discharged in October 1963. He remained in Alaska, working for a
construction company and as a part time employee of the Alaska
Steamship Company. He apparently was on the dock waiting to
unload the ship Chena when earthquake hit. The subsequent tsunami
washed him and many others out to sea. Dads body was never found.
My brother and I have letters that dad wrote to us shortly before
the earthquake. My brothers is dated March 23, 1964. Our father
and mother (Norma Hurst Mueller) were married 10/14/1949 and divorced
6 years later. My brother and I were raised by our grandparents,
Victor and Blanche Mueller. Submitted by the surviving
children of Donald Muelle
PERRY MEAD Jr. (age
12) (of Anchorage)
MERELL MEAD (age 2)
Dr. Perry Mead, a neurosurgeon in Anchorage,
and his wife Wanda (Merrell) Mead, a teacher, had five
children (Perry 12, Pam 11, Penny 8, Paul 4 and Merrell 2) and a large
home in the Turnagain area. Dr. Mead was at work and Wanda
had gone to the store to get Easter gifts the afternoon of March
27th. When the earthquake started; Penny ran outside as Perry helped
his two younger brothers get out of the house. When Perry saw the jumble
of broken houses, cars, sunken driveways and uprooted trees all sliding
towards Cook Inlet, he panicked and took off running only to disappear
into a whole in the ground; never to be found again. Two year old Merrell,
was standing next to his sister Penny in what used to be the driveway, when
a crack in the earth opened up and "swallowed" the toddler then closed back
up, never to be found again.
Information source: An interview with Penny Mead, by Julia O'Malley
- Anchorage Daily News reporter 3/22/2014
STERLING STAPP Sr.
Sterling Stapp was 16 when he watched his father
(also named Sterling Stapp) get washed off of the Valdez
dock during the 1964 tidal wave. Submitted
by Honora (Roselyn) Windeler Drew
Lester Finke was my grandfather, he was killed
at Seward in the earthquake/tidal wave. he was
a commercial fisherman and there was lots of ice floating
in the harbor on Good Friday 1964. After the earthquake,
a bunch of men went down to the docks to check their boats.
The tidal wave hit and they were washed away. Submitted by Lester Finke
JIM GROWDEN Sr.
JAMES GROWDEN Jr. (age 4) (of
DAVID LEE GROWDEN (age 3) (of Valdez)
Jim Growden was my uncle and I have such fun
memories of him. He would stay with us in Anchorage
when he was in the Army. I remember the sleigh bells
on the roof (SANTA), "LASSIE was hit by a car last week"
(my mother would thump him a good one as her 4 children were
near tears,) he loved burnt toast ( our kitchen always smelled)
and he helped my mother out with the 4 kids when my Dad was up
on the north slope for months at a time. Out of 4 brothers,
Jimmy was the one who went to college (paid for by his older
brothers) and became the beloved teacher and coach. He
was so loved by his wife and children and all of his nephews and me,
the one niece in the crowd. In a nutshell, that is my Uncle
Jimmy. I loved him unconditionally....and all
of his practical jokes, unconditionally. Submitted
by Kim Growden Hammers
DAN BODDY (of
Dan Boddy met his wife while he was stationed
in the military in Fairbanks. He had a variety of jobs
including hauling cars over the Alaska Highway for a Fairbanks
car dealership. In the spring of 1964, there were road
restrictions, due to an early spring thaw, so Dan's usual job of
hauling cars was on hold. Instead, he worked that spring
for Lynden Transport and was in Valdez, the day of the 1964 earthquake,
to pick up cargo from the ship, "Chena". While on the dock,
he ran into an old service buddy and was invited to go into town for
a drink and talk over old times. He declined the offer.
The old friend later told Dan's wife that, as he left Dan on
the dock, and proceeded to walk up the street into town, the
earthquake struck. He turned around and the dock, and everyone
on it, were gone. He said it happened just that fast.
Dan's wife said that when her husband kissed her good-bye, before
driving to Valdez that morning, he was strangely quiet and she
later wondered if he had a premonition about the way the trip would
end. Dan's body was was found, early the following week,
washed up on Potato Point near Valdez. It's ironic that
the family had plans to move out of Alaska, and had already purchased
a home in Seattle, when Dan Boddy died in the 1964 earthquake.
by daughter, Nancy Boddy
DAN BODDY (of Fairbanks)
Dan Boddy, a Fairbanks resident, worked for Mitchell Truck
and Tractor but took a week long temporary job with Lynden Transfer
to haul 4 loads of construction materials from the SS Chena in Valdez
to Fort Greely. He was on the dock loading his truck when the tsunami
Information from the Fairbanks Daily News
BOB SIMMONS (of
Bob Simmons was my uncle. My mother, Barbara
Simmons was his sister. The earthquake was shortly
before I was born . According to my mother uncle Bob was
out fishing, & the nameplate of his boat was found several
miles inland. Nothing else was ever found. Their mother
was named Noni. According to my mother Bob was an accomplished
outdoorsman who used to go out into the Alaskan Wilderness for
months at a time & come back "several pounds heavier".
I will inquire further the next time I see her. He and his brothers
and sisters grew up in Peace River County, Alberta. Submitted by Bob Blakely
ROBERT SIMMONS (of
Robert Martin Simmons was my father. His date
of birth was May 14, 1921 and his date of death was March
27, 1964. His mother was Olive Lay Simmons and his father was
Lester Benjamin Simmons. Daddy was Irish, Scot and
English as far as I know. Olive worked as a school teacher in Alberta
and died in White Rock, B. C. in the 1960's. His wife was named
Lou , I believe she was Yupik.
Written by Edna Deerunner Simmons
NOTE: Publication done by NOAA about
the earthquake, says that "Lou" was really Louise Ellanna
(maiden name Oukuk) Simmons.
ALBERT REFT Sr. (of
My father, Albert Reft, Sr. was born in Karluk.
He had 2 brothers, one named Gus Reft and other Charlie
Reft. He also had 2 sisters, Mary (Reft) Gallager
and Annie (Reft) Anderson White.
In 1964 I was 17 y/o myself. I was raised by my aunt
Mary Gallagher and she was married to Thomas Gallagher.
They owned and operated the Polar Bear Cafe for years, until
the tidal wave arrived. My understanding of the circumstances
behind my father's fate comes to me 2nd hand, through
friends who reported this to my aunt Mary.
Thomas Gallagher was very fond of animals and he had a
large herd of cattle on Long Island and Near Island
as well. At Near Island he also had pigs and horses.
On March 27th my father was with my uncle Thomas at Near
Island to feed the cattle and the pigs. It was unusual
for my father to assist my uncle in this regard as myself,
and my younger brother Thomas, would always assist our uncle
in feeding his animals. However, that day they were at
Near Island and they used a skiff about 16 foot long with a 25
hp outboard motor. I was told that when the first shock
arrived (and it was large) that their outboard motor was flung from
their skiff by this jolt. Both my father and uncle had noticed
that the water level was rising and they decided to head back
to the boat harbor, which was a short distance from their skiff
on the beach. They used oars to get themselves back to
the boat harbor, and once there, my uncle scurried up to the dock.
However, my father, noticing a friend's boat being tied at its
mooring and the boat's mooring lines being very taunt from the
rising waters, decided to undo the lines of his friend's boat
and he attempted to bring this boat to safe waters. My
uncle Gallagher told us that he did get the lines undone and attempted
to bring the boat to safer waters. He said he pleaded with
my father to jump the boat, to let it go, and get to safe ground.
He did not listen to my uncle and so he remained on his friend's
boat. We only know that he was on this boat and after all had
settled down no traces of the boat or my father could be found.
Obviously, like many of us at this moment in time, he was not aware
of the power a tsunami has, especially the size of the one that
It was several days after the tidal wave action had ceased
that the word about my father's fate had actually reached
us. My aunt Mary Gallagher and my father were
very close to each other and I do remember her giving
me the news about my dad. She was standing in our
sun room, it was a cold, windy and rainy day and she was full
of tears. She stated that all attempts to find traces
of our father and the boat he was on was in vane. I don't
even remember the name of the boat or the name of the friend my
father new that owned it. Submitted by Albert A. Reft
LEWIS MICHELSON FAMILY (of Whittier)
DAVID BARNES FAMILY (of Whittier)
FRANCIS DAMON (of Whittier)
LARRY DAMON (age 16) (of Whittier)
GERIANNE WARE (6 months old)
"On the afternoon train, in to Whittier, were
Mrs. Francis Damon, her 16 year old son Larry from Soldotna,
and David Barnes, an employee of the Two Brothers Lumber
Company who was returning from a week's absence. Larry was planning
on helping Lewis Michelson, another employee of the lumber company,
to get his boat ready for the fishing season. The Barnes and Michelsons
were friends in nearly identical situations, both raising three
small children, two boys and a daughter, each being 6 years old
and younger, without the mothers. Both lived in company housing near
the waterfront. As the 27th was Lewis Michelson's birthday, all ten
had gathered at his house for a birthday dinner by 5:30 P.M. Another
couple, Leonard Day, a caretaker at the lumber company, and his wife,
Alberta, also lived in company housing. He was retiring and they expected
to leave in a week for the "Lower 48." (Norton and Haas, 1970, P.132).
Within 45 seconds of the onset of the earthquake shaking that had started
slowly and quickly became violent, the first oil storage tank failed
as its bottom moved away. About 1 minute after the shaking started the
first wave rose glassy smooth over the bank. A returning breaking wave
flooded the lower part of town to a height of 25 to 26 feet above lower
low water, the water level at that time. Low tide was predicted for 6:16
P.M. at -0.16 feet. About one minute later a second breaking wave hit at
a height of about 40 feet causing great destruction to the railroad yards.
The maximum height reported in Whittier was 43 feet near the small boat
harbor location at that time. A witness reported seeing a wall of water
coming ashore. Offshore the water had the appearance of something having
exploded underneath the canal about 50 yards off shore. A third breaking
wave hit about a minute later with a height of 30 feet. The ten people
at the Michelson's home and the Day's were washed away and never found.
These were all due to local landslide tsunamis. At the time of the initial
shock and first small wave, Jerry Ware, a railroad maintenance man, was
standing at the car barge dock. He drove to his house near the depot for
his wife and six month old daughter. A wave came in the window and smashed
the trailer, throwing Mrs. Ware clear but washed away Gerianne, the infant.
Ware was swept through the porch wall and rode and swam with the porch door.
He found his wife in the mud and water clear of the trailer. She had serious
injuries, with pieces of wood embedded in her body, a fractured ankle and
an injured shoulder. She was airlifted out of Whittier the next afternoon
on the first flight out and eventually evacuated to Seattle where she recovered.
Her baby was found alive in a snow bank but died shortly afterwards. Mrs.
Ware was the only serious injury from the tsunami or earthquake at Whittier".
information about the Ware family next)
UPDATE AND CORRECTION TO ABOVE STORY: The
inside of Judy Ware's arm was ripped or torn open from
her palm to her elbow by a piece of wood debris. Her arm was
broken between her elbow and shoulder. We were air lifted to
Providence Hospital in Anchorage for emergency treatment
on Sunday (quake was on Friday). Gas gangrene had attacked her
arm near her right wrist. We were evacuated to Settle so she could
receive treatment in an oxygen chamber for the gangrene.
Her leg was not broken, but Jerry Ware's left ankle was broken. Written
and submitted by Jerry and Judy Ware
WILLY EVANOFF (of
SALLY EVANOFF (of Chenega)
JOANNE KOMPKOFF (age 3) (of Chenega)
I was there in Chenega, I ran from a 96 ft tidal
wave, don't know how I made it. We ran up the mountain
and stayed up their all night cause we heard there was
going to be another quake. We had a fire going.
I ran up the mountain without shoes, so they had a time keeping
my feet warm. After the waves, we were going down to the school
and in my heart I knew Mom and Dad and Joann were gone. My oldest
girl Joann, 3, was with the mom that raised me, so she died with
her and dad. Mom and dad were Willy and Sally Evanoff. The
next morning the mail plane came and picked 15 of us up at once and
later went back and got the others. Twenty seven out of 87
or so people died that day. There were a lot of good people in
Old Chenega. They found my daughters body on Knight Island two weeks
after the earthquake. Submitted by Avis
EVANOFF (of Chenega)
SALLY EVANOFF (of
JOANNE KOMPKOFF (age 3) (of Chenega)
RICHARD KOMPKOFF (of Chenega)
STEVE ELESHANSKY (of Chenega)
RHONDA ELESHANSKY (age 1) (of Chenega)
The small village of Chenega, in Prince William Sound, was right
on the waters edge, with a steep mountain slope right behind it. When
the earth started shaking, in 1964, everyone grabbed their children and
tried to run up the hill to safety; 23 people didn't make it.
The older children were told to run, as fast as they could, up
the hill and the youngest ones were carried by their parents. SOME villagers
didn't even make it to the bottom of the hill. Willie and Sally Evanoff
and their granddaughter Joanne Kompkoff were washed away with the first
wave. Richard Kompkoff drowned while trying to save Anna Vlasoff, who
refused to leave her injured daughter behind (Anna drowned but the daughter
survived). Avis Kompkoff ran up the hill carrying her baby, with Steve
Eleshansky and his 1 year old daughter Rhonda right behind her. As the
wave caught up to them, Avis looked back and Steve and his daughter were
gone; washed away. One father, carrying two of his sons, was caught up
in a tsunami wave that carried them up the hill and left them (standing)
safely on a ridge.
McCLURE (of California)
Technical Sergeant Donald McClure,
34 years old, was eel fishing with a friend at the
mouth of the Klamath River, just south of Crescent City, California,
when the tsunami carried both men and the tons of logs
and driftwood debris on the beach about half a mile up the River.
My father received "The Airman's Medal" (posthumously) for his
bravery in saving his friend life that night. He was missing
for about a month and his body was finally discovered on April
26th about 5-1/2 miles north of Patricks Point buoy by fishermen
aboard the boat Sally out of Trinidad Harbor. He was buried May 4th
at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
He left behind a wife and 3 children, the youngest being 3 weeks
old. His father was Thomas Henry McClure of Pikens
County, Georgia, and Ethel Plott of Union County, Georgia. Submitted by Doris
My father, Technical Sergeant Stuart W. Harrington,
was eel fishing on a sandbar in the mouth of the Klamath
River with his best friend, Technical Sergeant Donald McClure,
when the tsunami struck. According to my father's account
to the Air Force, and The Raging Sea, a book by Dennis Powers
published in 2005, the tsunami pushed them as much as 2 miles
up the river. This estimate was based upon Sgt. Harrington's description
of the landmarks and the site of the first rescue attempt. Stuart
Harrington was a few years older than Don McClure and was
terribly hindered by his weighted chest waders and heavy
woolen clothing. Sgt. McClure pulled him onto a redwood log at
a point when he could no longer pull himself up. He never would
have survived without his dear friend's strength and courage. It
is a true tragedy that Sgt. McClure was lost when the second wave hit
as he and my father were attempting to swim to shore amidst the debris.
It is a miracle that my father survived. My father was pained that
his survival received more media attention at the time than did
Sgt. McClure's death. He grieved the loss of his friend until his
own death on September 26, 1993. Submitted by Susan
H. Tedrick, Esq. daughter of Stuart W. Harrington
AGATHA CLAWSON (of California)
EARL EDWARDS (of California)
JUANITA EDWARDS (of California)
JOAN FIELDS (of California)
William “Bill” and Agatha Clawson owned a tavern called
the “Long Branch” in Crescent City, California. They, and
a group of friends, were celebrating Bill Clawson's birthday.
After the first tsunami flooding, The Clawson's, their 27
year old son Gary, Gary's fiancé Joan Fields, an employee
named Juanita Edwards and her husband Earl, a friend named M.
D. McGuire and the tavern bartender, Bruce Garden all went back
to the tavern to inspect the damage and collect the money from the
Underestimating what was yet to come, the group
decided to stay at the tavern and have a birthday toast. The
next tsunami wave destroyed the tavern. As Gary Clawson &
McGuire swam to shore, the rest of the party sought safety on
the floating tavern roof. Clawson found a rowboat and rowed through
fires that were floating on the water, back out to the stranded
people. All seven people got into the rowboat and headed for shore.
When the boat was 75' from shore, the water receded as quickly
as it came in and the boat was forced into the Elk Creek Bridge where
it broke apart and everyone was sucked into the culvert. Some were
trapped in debris that was in the culvert but Gary Clawson made it
through the culvert and was carried out to sea (where he was able to
swim back to shore). The bartender saved himself by hanging on to something,
but the other five drowned.
My grandmother was Juanita Pearl Edwards and she died
with the others from the Long Branch Tavern in Crescent
City. This was two years before I was born so I never
knew her but she is dearly missed. Submitted by
Cheri Goodwin, Oregon
My half sister was Joan Vey Fields Died in the
1964 Crescent City Tsunami. I remember Joan as being
very sweet and could draw beautiful pictures... She made me
feel special... I was 13 years old when she died in the 1964 Crescent
City Tsunami... I didn't know her well but I loved her very much...
After our father died I never heard from the family at all...
I don't know if she was found or if she has been buried. We had
another sister Joan's Sister Bev I don't know where she is either.
Our father's name was Irvin Crawford everyone called him Jack all
his family are from Lassen County. I don't know to much about Joan's
Mom except that my Mom and her were friends at one time.
by Joans half sister Patty.
(Note: Joan Vey Fields
was at the Long Branch Tavern at Crescent City, celebrating
the 54th birthday of her future father in law. Five
people from the saloon died including Joan and her future in-laws.
The only survivor was Joan's fiancé, Gary Clawson.)
WILLIAM WRIGHT (age
1) (of California)
BONITA WRIGHT (age 2) (of California)
Mr. and Mrs. William Wright, who lived on Highway 101,
Crescent City, California lost their two children to tsunami
waves. Their 1 year old son William and 2 year old daughter
Bonita were pulled from Mrs. Wright's arms by waves.
Lavella Hillsburg of Hammond Hill Road in Crescent City,
California...left her home and drove to a friends house
to warn them of the coming tsunami. When the group tried
to leave in Hillsburg's car, the wave stalled the car, so
the three people tried to evacuate on foot. Lavella didn't make
it, and drowned.
DENNIS CUNNINGHAM (of Valdez)
JAMES GROWDEN (of Valdez)
I lost many dear friends in the earthquake. Donnie (Donald)
O'Leary was tying down a load (of freight) on a Weaver Brother's
truck (that was transferring freight from the dock) when the earthquake
struck. He was last seen scrambling around in the mud after the
water was sucked out of the bay. When the resulting tsunami returned,
he was drowned.
Fifteen year old Dennis Cunningham was our
paperboy, he was just waiting on the dock to sell newspapers,
etc., to sailors and tourists when the tsunami hit.
Jimmy Growden and his family were my neighbors.
Our cold storage plant was located on the old cannery dock
and Bob Kulstad worked for us as a watchman. He and his wife Pat
lived in a trailer on the old dock. Just before the earthquake, Bob
had gone to the store for a loaf of bread and his wife Pat stayed behind.
The earthquake and tsunami collapsed the entire dock and Pat Kulstad
Information from: Colleen
DON O'LEARY (of
Don O'Leary was born and raised in Fairbanks; his parents were
Mr. and Mrs. Maurice O'Leary. He had two brothers, George and Ed and
two sisters, Mrs. Frank Warren and Diane O'Leary. He was also survived
by two Aunts, Mrs. Ernest Heilman and Mrs. Walter Jewell.
Information from the Fairbanks Daily News
THOMAS SELANOFF (infant)
ROBERT SELANOFF (infant) (of Chenega)
Thomas and Robert Selanoff, infant twin sons of Paul Selanoff
and Junie Eleshansky died in the third tsunami wave to hit Chenega.
Their mother was holding the babies in her arms while she was trying
to climb up a hill to safety, but the wave caught up with her and took
CLAYTON JAMES BAKER
Clayton James Baker moved to Anchorage with his sister and brother-in-law
(from Helena, Montana) in 1957. Mr. Baker had polio as a child and was
handicapped. He died in his home on Marston Drive in Anchorage. He was
survived by brothers Lane and Wesley and sisters Vada Robinson and Mrs.
LEORA ELLEN (OLIVER) KNIGHT (of Anchorage) (following written by Leora's daughter: Carol Knight Korman)
My mother was born
in Oberon, North Dakota, on 11/30/1907 to Maurice Herbert Oliver and Ellen
Maude Hulbert Oliver. She grew up in N.D. and suffered from polio as a youngster.
She graduated from U.N.D. in Grand Forks in 1929, majoring in science. She
married Virgil Eugene Knight (1906-1978) who graduated from U.N.D. with a
degree in mechanical engineering that same year. They found jobs in Chicago
- Dad with Western Electric and Mother teaching. In 1929, the financial
crash occurred and as new employees, they both lost their jobs. Later that
year they both got jobs with the B.I.A. as teachers at an industrial school
at White Mountain, Alaska. They traveled by ship, The North Star, to Nome,
Alaska. They were the only non-Native people in the village and split the
teaching duties between themselves, along with acting as the village dentist,
nurse, counselor, etc. In 1940, Dad had a position with the Civil Aeronautics
Authority (CAA) and Mom taught all the science classes at Anchorage High
School. In 1956 or 1957, the Knights moved into a lovely new home in the
Turnagain area. They were there on Good Friday, March 27, 1964 when the Great
Alaska Earthquake hit the Anchorage area. From my Dad's story of events,
they were in the house and began to grab lamps and loose objects as the shaking
started. When they realized it was a major earthquake, they ran out the front
door and down the asphalt driveway toward the street. At some point, a large
crack opened in the driveway and Mom, who was running ahead of Dad, fell
in. Dad fell in behind her, but higher up the back side of the hole. The
frozen earth continued to move and grind and the crack closed up, crushing
Mother across the chest and severing one of Dad's legs. Mother was
mortally wounded and may have died at the scene, but there is a story that
she died in the ambulance staffed by the volunteer fire department personnel.
My husbands brother, Robert Korman, was one of those volunteers and thinks
she may have recognized him before she died. Both parents were initially
found by National Guard personnel flying in a helicopter over this heavily
damaged area of the city. Dad was transported to the new Providence Hospital
where he was treated for his traumatic injuries. His own doctor, whom he
had known for 20+ years did not recognize him. A National Guardsman had found
Dad's glasses at the scene and tucked them into his shirt and he was later
identified by his name engraved on the stem. Their home was totally destroyed
and very little was ever salvaged from it. The land slid into Cook Inlet
and nothing was ever built in that area again, though it took until 2007
to finally settle the legal claims. Dad underwent several surgeries to save
his left leg and to prepare his amputated right leg for a future prosthesis.
Virgil Eugene Knight passed away in 1978. He and Leora are buried side by
side at the Angelus Cemetery in Anchorage.
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