Friends and family will remember Larry Albecker for his heroism in battle, fishing skill and social ways. Albecker died Aug. 7 at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage from internal bleeding. He was 65.
Lawrence James Albecker was born in St. Anne’s Hospital in Juneau on May 22, 1946 to Leo Albecker Sr. and Minnie Hayes Albecker of Haines. He was the third of their six children. His father was a fisherman and his mother a homemaker who worked seasonally at Letnikof cannery.
Larry attended Sheldon Jackson High School in Sitka, but dropped out at 17 and joined the Army on Sept. 9, 1963. He took paratrooper training at Fort Benning, Ga. and was sent to Okinawa with the 173rd brigade, one of the first to see combat in Vietnam and where he was awarded the Bronze Star with a V device, "for heroism connected with military actions against a hostile force."
Albecker was serving as a mortar gunman when the Viet Cong launched an assault on his battalion. He dodged what the citation called "intense enemy fire" to run to deliver ammunition to the troops. It said he used both "fire and maneuver tactics" to re-supply the gunners and concludes, "His actions were in keeping with the highest military traditions."
"He was one of 10 people that survived out of 40 in his platoon," his brother Billy said. (He and their older brother, the late Sonny Albecker, also were paratroopers.) The family saved newspaper clippings lauding Albecker as an Alaskan hero, but his siblings said Larry didn’t talk about the war or the award. "He didn’t bring up the past. He talked a little to me and to our father when he got back, but that was all. He lost his best friends there," said sister Gal Gal Albecker Allen.
After the war he returned to Haines, fished and played city league basketball for the Pioneer team. He also spent winters with much of the local fleet working at the shipyards in Seattle, his brothers said. He married Sherry Lynn Behrends and named his gillnetter for her. After they split up he wed Dottie Gilchrist.
Friend John Katzeek fished with Albecker. "He was a real good fisherman. One of the best. A highliner. We fished hard trying to beat his brother Billy and Norman Hotch. Larry didn’t care about anyone else, but he wanted to beat those guys."
David Land recalled seeing the Sherry Lynn’s decks loaded and hatches plugged with salmon, riding so low in the water it was in danger of sinking.
Albecker bought the former Reef Bar on Main Street and operated it for three or four years. He sang for customers before karaoke, Land said. "He was a very good singer. He could do it all, the Righteous Brothers, Lou Rawls, Tom Jones." He was also a sharp dresser. "He knew how to buy clothes," brother Fuzzy said. Larry Albecker also fished in Bristol Bay, and worked as a longshoreman for Klukwan Inc., loading log ships. In the 1990s he moved to Juneau where he worked at Taku Smokeries. He spent the last five or six years retired in Haines.
Albecker was a member of the American Legion, the Haines ANB and an Eagle. "He was a real Native. A real Indian boy. He loved his fish. But he was also a real socializer. Larry could talk to anyone," Fuzzy Albecker said.
Larry Albecker is survived by his three children: Teddy Albecker of Anchorage, Krystal Haycock of Las Vegas, and Michelle Albecker of North Carolina; siblings Billy Albecker of Ugashik, Gal Gal Albecker Allen of Tacoma, Wash., Fuzzy of Haines and Beatrice Wright of SeaTac; five grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Leo and Minnie, brother Sonny, and nephew Justin.
There will be a memorial service 1 p.m. Friday at the American Legion followed by a luncheon. Attendees are asked to please bring a side dish.