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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.
If you would like to add a photograph
of your loved one, please let me know.
Three Afognak 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 two men were Harry Nielson of Afognak
and Theodore Panamarioff of the village of Ouzinkie. The Skippers body
was found 4/3/1964 at Cape Spruce, ironically the landmark that his boat
was named after. Information found at www.afognak.org
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
Monte and Rita McKenzie
of Tacoma were camping with their 4 children at the Beverly Beach State
Park in Oregon. The family was still recovering from the tragic death
of their oldest child, nine year old Susannne, who died (8 months earlier)
after her clothes caught fire while lighting a camp fire. Monte, Rita and
their 4 remaining children were sleeping on the beach when a series of
tsunami waves hit. After the first wave, the parents gathered their children,
but were quickly separated from them by additional waves. All four McKenzie
children: Louis 8, Bobby 7, Richard 6, Tammi 3 (and the family dog) were
swept out to sea and perished (only 6 year old Ricky's body was found).
All five McKenzie children died within 7 months of each other. Corvallis Gazette Times 3/30/1964 page 2
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 Theodore Van Buskirk 1926-1964 died at Valdez.
He was the son of Ralph & Frances Elba Onalee Harris VanBuskirk
and husband of Janet Louise Clairmore Vanbuskirk.
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 and a member of the Faith CApostolichurch. Information and photo submitted
by Suzanne Cook Taylor
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. (Lynne
was killed 24 March 1978 - also on Good Friday) Written
by Greg Robinson, son of Richard Robinson
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. Information taken from the Kodiak Mirror and researcher Mona
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.
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.
Submitted by Margaret Basta Montana
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 f rom 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
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 May
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.
Lander, J.F. Tsunamis Affecting Alaska
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.
Submitted 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 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
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 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
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
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.
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 Pettikof disappeared in Shuyak Strait on his
boat immediately after the earthquake, presumed drowned in the tidal
wave. Submitted by Tom Peterson
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
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
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
Dr. Perry Mead, a neurosurgeon
in Anchorage, and his wife Wanda (maiden name Merrell) a teacher,
had five children and a large home in the Turnagain area, in 1964.
Dr. Mead was at work and Wanda had gone to the store to get Easter goods
the afternoon of March 27th. When the earthquake struck, four of the
Mead children (Perry, Pamela, Penelope & Paul) ran out of the house.
Realizing that baby Merrell (age 2) was still inside, Perry (age 12) ran
back in to get him. Just as he did, the house slid off the bluff into the
ocean; the two children were never found. The three remaining children
were rescued (by ropes) from a large sinkhole in their front yard. Submitted by Dr. deShawn Merrell cousin to the
Mead children and John Dillman 1964 Rescue group and family friend.
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)
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
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 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.
Submitted by daughter, Nancy Boddy
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 Martin Simmon's 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.
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)
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
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.
"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 Geriann, 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".
Norton and Haas, 1970, p. 312).
(see corrected information about the Ware family next)
UPDATE: 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. Submitted by Jerry and
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, 3½, 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
Fairbanks Daily News Miner 3/31/1964
Recovering from the first shocks of Friday's earthquake, the entire
population of Prince William Sound community of Chenega began a race with
death for high ground.
Dragging their older children and clutching babies under their arms,
the 75 people of Chenega struggled up the hill towards high ground as
an 80' tidal wave came crashing down on their village only minutes
after the earthquake.
Many of the residents of that fishing village never reached the safety
of that high ground. Two successive 80' tidal waves swarmed over the
people and carried 23 persons with them when it withdrew.
About 10 of the 23 were pre-school age children. Survivors watched
in helpless terror as they saw their friends and relatives swept away.
When the water subsided, nothing remained where the village had once
stood, not even debris remained.
The only building left standing was the school, sitting 90' above
high tide on a hill behind the village. The waters struck the school house
but did not carry it away.
Miss Christine Madson, Chenega's school teacher, said she was part
way up the hill behind the school when the wave hit. "I saw the
waters going back out, carrying away the houses and buildings," she said,
"the first wave caught almost all the people, but the second wave carried
many of them back in again. Babies were carried right out of their mothers
arms in the water" she said. Miss Madson told how the survivors finally
reached high ground and immediately set about organizing and gathering
supplies, "there was absolutely no sign of panic" she said, "everyone
who survived lost someone in just a matter of minutes and all their homes
were carried away, but what struck me most was that they were so good in
this terrible disaster".
The Motor Vessel Marpet, out of Cordova, was off Chenega during the
wave and afterward picked one woman out of the Bay with a broken hip and
several broken ribs. The Marpet stayed off shore all night trying to radio
the U.S. Coast Guard.
Several Chenega people who were out at sea in skiffs were not swamped
by the wave and came back into the village. Chenega has now been
reported to be extremely close to the center of the quake. One estimate
has placed the center only 8 miles from the island.
The survivors of Chenega were picked up by Jim Osborn of Cordova
Air Service on Saturday and taken off the island by vessels Marpet and
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
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 “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 cash register. 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 to 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.
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
Mrs. William Wright, who lived on Highway 101, Crescent
City, California lost her two children to tsunami waves. Her 10 month
old son William and her 3 year old daughter Bonita were pulled from her
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.
I lost many dear friends in the earthquake. Donnie (Donald) O'Leary was tying
down a load (of frieght) 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
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 was
Information from: Colleen Joy Hickman
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