July 21, 2011 |

Victor M. Palmer Jr. found gold, God in Haines

There will be a memorial service for long-time resident Victor Palmer on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church.

Palmer died July 14, two days before his 70th birthday, after a long battle with cancer.

"He was a logger, a miner, and a fisherman, but he was also an artist, innovator and very musical. All of this rubbed off on us. Even his grandchildren take after him," daughter Frankie Jones said.  

The Palmer name may be best known for the Palmer Prospect. The mining claim at 38 Mile is the core asset of Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. His brother, Merrill, discovered the rich mineral deposits in the sixties and Victor helped develop it.

"They hiked all over, carrying rocks in their backpacks, staking claims," wife Linda Palmer said.

"He said we probably will never see anything of it in our lifetime, but the grandchildren will," Jones said.

Victor Merrill Palmer Jr. was born in Carmel, CA on July 16, 1941 to Victor Sr. and Leona Mae (Schenkel) Palmer. His father was in the Army and then worked on the farms and in the forests of Northern California. Linda Palmer said Victor went to "about 27 different schools" before completing 11th grade. He joined the Army in 1958, and on September 5, 1959 he and childhood sweetheart Linda (Karwacki) were married.

"Our dads worked in the woods together. When we were in fourth grade, Victor told his dad he was going to marry me," she said.

After his discharge they lived in Fortuna and Klamath Calf., where he worked as a logger. They had three small children when they packed up and moved to Alaska.

The Palmers arrived in Haines in 1965. Victor worked as a timber faller and was paid per thousand board feet he cut.

Linda said that when the logging company decided to pay a daily rate, her husband, who was a quick worker, was so mad, "he tossed his chain saw off the dock" and bought a small troller. He fished summers and worked in the Alaska Forest Products sawmill during the winters.

He bought a larger 42-foot troller, the Yukon II, in 1973 from Don Turner. Palmer’s family joined him on the boat in fishing season.

"He was a real hard worker and a quick thinker. When he fished it was 20 hours a day. He was a guy who didn’t take much sleep," Turner said.

Palmer later bought an 80-foot king crab vessel he planned to base out of Kodiak but his timing coincided with a crash of crab stocks and he lost the boat.

By 1981 Palmer was gillnetting in Haines, which he continued to do until his health prevented it. He and Linda also gold-mined on the Trinity River in California.

When Palmer discovered computers, he was hooked by the technology and used it in part to become a timber consultant. He also continued to explore the Palmer Prospect as well as work the Discovery claim at Porcupine and he learned to make gold nugget jewelry.

"He changed trades more than most people trade hats," daughter Jessie Badger said.

Palmer was a lifelong advocate for multiple use designations to allow logging, mining, hunting and fishing on public lands.

He tied his own flies, hunted, picked berries, cut firewood, played the 12-string guitar and especially loved to fish. His ashes will be scattered along his favorite fly-fishing stream.

However, the story of his life may be, as Linda said, "He was a hard working, hard drinking man for 25 years and then he had a spiritual experience and quit drinking cold turkey."

Carol Lawrence was part of the Palmers’ Bible study group. "He was very staunch. He was a man’s man. But when he opened his mouth and gave his testimony people listened." Lawrence said

Palmer told them he was driving the highway home and thinking about what his wife and children had been telling him about their Christian faith, when he angrily demanded that God prove he was real.

"It was a gray dismal day and the sky opened up and the sun came out. He was so overcome he had to pull over. It was his Paul on the road to Damascus experience and he never turned back. He was a different person after that," she said.

Linda said from then on Palmer’s life revolved around the family, especially his grandchildren, whom he loved to tease, and that he adored their infant great-grandson, Evan Knight.

"He called him Evan from Heaven," Linda said.

Palmer is survived by his wife Linda; daughters Frankie Jones and Jessie Badger; eight grandchildren, and one great-grandson all of Haines; a son Eric of Gooding Idaho, and brother Merrill of Oregon.