April 19, 2012 | Vol.42 No. 16

Young came west with Dust Bowl, embraced adventure

Kathleen “Dixie” Young, who came west with Dust Bowl-era refugees and enjoyed roaming backroads much of her life, died April 12 in Anacortes, Wash. She was 87.

Dixie Young

Katie Kathleen Killion was born at home in rural Lewis County, Ark. on Sept. 5, 1924 to Brian Killion and Lily Winters. Her mother died of pneumonia when she was seven, and her only sibling, sister Mildred Killion, died about 15 years later.

As a teenager, she moved with her family and other westbound migrants to Riverside, Calif. She married at age 17 and had two children, Jack and Diane Hartnett. The marriage didn’t last.

Dixie worked as a waitress, and in 1946 married Harry Young, a welder. Young, who had served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, was contacted a few years later by a friend living in Whitehorse, Y.T., who told him about a welding job here building the Haines-Fairbanks military fuel pipeline.

The family came north and eventually grew by two daughters. After three years in Whitehorse and two years in Skagway, they came to Haines in 1953, where Harry Young found work at the Army pipeline terminal. He became foreman.

In the mid-1950s, the family built a house on Mud Bay Road, including a full, stone fireplace in the basement made of rocks from around the valley. Dixie joined her husband on outings. “They were super adventurous. They loved to explore. On every trail and logging road, they went looking,” said daughter Sharon Svenson.

Dixie especially enjoyed poking around old cabin sites, digging up artifacts, including old bottles, said Svenson. She restored a brass bed she salvaged from the Porcupine and slung across a cable-crossing there before there was a bridge crossing. “If it was an antique, she’d haul it out, no matter what,” Svenson said.

Dixie dug up the dumps at Hjalmar Rutzebeck’s lakeside homestead and prospected at Porcupine and old cannery sites at Lutak and Pyramid Harbor. On a skiff trip to Pyramid Harbor, a bear threatened her and winds blew up that threatened to swamp her boat crossing Chilkat Inlet.

“My little sister Jennifer prayed all the way across the bay because it was so rough. Mom was scared, but she wouldn’t leave her bottles,” Svenson said.

The Youngs had a cabin at Mosquito Lake and another one further up the Chilkat for moose hunting. “They both loved adventure. They were go-go-go,” Svenson said.

They left Haines in 1971. “My dad was tired of shoveling snow. They were retired and they wanted to travel around. They were both rock hounds. They’d go anywhere they could to dig for rocks. But they mostly just liked to go wander.”

Friends this week remembered Dixie as a neat dresser who kept a big garden, including attractive flowers.

Mary Manuel knew Dixie Young through friendships of their respective children. She said Young was an impeccable housekeeper, but also good company. “Dixie’s house was absolutely spotless. Every surface was perfectly clean. I envied her ability to do that. She said (husband Harry) would check to make sure she dusted the bedsprings.”

The two rekindled their relationship when Young moved back here a few years ago, spending a year at Haines Senior Village. “She was a very pleasant person. She was a lot of fun to be with.”

During her second stay in Haines, Dixie went by “Kathleen,” her daughter said. “Everybody called her Dixie. Her father called her that, but she hated it. When she moved down south, she dropped Dixie.”

Young was preceded in death by sister Mildred Killion, husband Harry Young and by daughter Diane Hartnett. She is survived by son Jack Hartnett of Santa Rosa, Calif., by daughters Sharon Svenson of Haines and Jennifer Young of Anacortes, Wash., and by seven grandchildren.

No service is planned. Her ashes will be scattered in Haines and Anacortes.