March 10, 2011 |

Longshoreman Potter was kind, calm, arts supporter

A memorial service is scheduled 10:30 a.m. Saturday for longtime resident Roger Potter, who died Sunday in Anchorage of renal failure. He was 60.

Potter was a kindly longshoreman and arts booster who went to Anchorage this winter for treatment of complications from diabetes. Saturday’s service will be held at Port Chilkoot Bible Church, with a potluck to follow.

Potter was a longtime member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and had worked the local docks since the 1970s, most recently as dispatch supervisor for Southeast Stevedoring Corp. of Ketchikan.

Dave Pahl worked with Potter for 26 years. "Kind is the one word that sticks in my mind to describe Roger," Pahl said. "He loved to laugh, was great to work with and a great conversationalist."

Phil Wilde was also on Potter’s waterfront crew. "We’d have some hairy situations. Most supervisors I’ve worked for had an attitude problem and could get mad real quick. Not him. He was a very level-headed guy and he was on that dock more than anybody else."

Potter was also popular with visitors. "He was such a roly-poly figure, with the long white hair and frequently a white handlebar mustache, that tourists loved to take his picture. I heard one man say, ‘I want my grandson to see what Santa Claus does in the summer,’" said visitor center employee Diana Kelm.

Potter was also Kelm’s Beach Road neighbor. He built his rustic log home, "Roger’s Roost," there. Kelm said Potter would give her firewood, chop kindling and then stay for coffee. "He was so sweet and calm. I’m going to miss him in the neighborhood."

Roger Potter was born in Lebanon, Ore. to Bonnie Shimmin and Jerry Potter on Nov. 18, 1950. The family moved to Haines in 1960. Jerry logged and worked for Schnabel Lumber Company and Bonnie taught Sunday school and volunteered at the library. They settled at 31 Mile, raising goats and chickens and keeping a big garden.

Roger often spoke of idyllic years spent in the country, hunting, fishing and playing in the woods with his three siblings. He graduated from Haines High in 1969, took a course in accounting, and joined the Navy. He served as a Seabee in a maintenance unit for four years in Cuba, Philippines, Thailand, Saipan and Spain, said sister Sharon Cobos.

Potter returned to Haines and began seasonal dock work, and also worked as a laborer at Prudhoe Bay during the pipeline construction, on a tender at Dutch Harbor and cleaned oiled beaches after the Exxon Valdez disaster. He spent a few years as a part-time home health aid for friend Linda Bruce, who died a few years ago.

Potter served on the Haines Arts Council board and was an avid reader and library patron. Bookstore owner and arts council president Tom Heywood said Potter made great brownies and hung all the event posters, always getting one out to 33 Mile Roadhouse on a visit to nearby family members.

Heywood said he had a favorite seat at the Chilkat Center. "Center section, about two-thirds back. He loved all the shows." Potter was a good customer who frequently phoned in special orders. "The books were always cutting edge social commentaries or witty, eclectic and off-beat new releases, which he ordered with a laugh and donated to the library when he finished them," Heywood said.

Cobos said her brother vacationed in Hilo, Hawaii resting in the sun and visiting with friends old and new. "He could talk on any subject," she said. "He was very politically involved and could discuss local politics and world politics." They spoke on the telephone every Sunday night, and he entertained her children on summer visits to his cabin here. "He was good to his nieces and nephews. He was a big Teddy bear."

Potter was preceded in death by his mother Bonnie and brother Paul. He is survived by brother Mike and Father Jerry of Haines; sister Sharon Cobos of Keitzer, Ore., and nephews and nieces Doug, Tiffanie, and Dee Dee Potter, and Matthew, Tim, Jeremy, and Twyla Cobos.