Out of respect for the families that have shared
their earthquake stories on this page, please do not re-print
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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.
These stories are not
in alphabetical order
"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 found.
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 Cake 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) (of
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). Information courtesyof www.afognak.org
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 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
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
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.
UPDATE: Mrs. Rita Kay
McKenzie (Jepson) died 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 (Mt. View Memorial Park in Lakewood, Washington). Rest in
Peace McKenzie family.
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 (age 18)(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)
I 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 Kodiak)
JACK BUSHOR (age 7) (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 (age 12) (of Kodiak)
MAURICE CURRY (age 12) (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)
DAVID BARNES (of
MICKI BARNES (age 5) (of Whittier)
RICKI BARNES (age 4) (of
VICKI BARNES (age 6) (of
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
Written by Margaret
MICHELSON FAMILY and BARNES FAMILY
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 (of Valdez)
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 Robinson
FRANK REID (of Cape St. Elias)
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 Seward)
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.
LEE HATCH (of Seward)
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
JULIA KOMPKOFF (age
9) (of Chenega)
NORMA JEAN KOMPKOFF (age 3) (of Chenega)
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 (of Kodiak)
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 Valdez)
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 Valdez)
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
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 Island)
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 Peterson
PAUL GREGORIEFF (of Valdez)
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
DUANNE CARRIKER (of Valdez)
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 Valdez)
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
MEAD Jr. (age 12) (of Anchorage)
MERELL MEAD (age 2) (of Anchorage)
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 "swollowed" 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. (of Valdez)
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
FINKE (of Seward)
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
GROWDEN Sr. (of Valdez)
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
BODDY (of Fairbanks)
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 hit.
Information from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner 3/31/1964
BOB SIMMONS (of Seward)
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 Seward)
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
NOTE: Publication done by NOAA about the earthquake,
says that "Lou" was really Louise Ellanna (maiden name Oukuk)
ALBERT REFT Sr. (of Kodiak)
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 hit Kodiak.
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 Jr.
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 Chenega)
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 Kompkoff ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
SALLY EVANOFF (of Chenega)
JOANNE KOMPKOFF (age 3) (of Chenega)
RICHARD KOMPKOFF (of Chenega)
ANNA VLASOFF (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 McClure Andersen
McCLURE (of California)
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
WILLIAM CLAWSON (of
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
JUANITA EDWARDS (of California)
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
JOAN FIELDS (of California)
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.
Submitted 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)
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 California)
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
DONALD O'LEARY (of Valdez)
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
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 Joy Hickman
DON O'LEARY (of Fairbanks)
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 Miner 3/31/1964
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 the babies.
CLAYTON JAMES BAKER (of
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.
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