Potter was logger, longshoreman
Jerry Potter, a timber faller and millhand who moved here during a lull in the Oregon logging industry in 1960, died July 5 at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. He was 86 and suffered complications of congestive heart failure.
Potter was born April 10, 1927, in Old Kettle Falls, Wash. to Louie and Georgia Potter. When his parents divorced, he lived with his father in Coos Bay and Portland, Ore.
He dropped out of school after eighth grade and at age 17 found work aboard merchant ships that were supplying Navy vessels, serving in engine rooms and sailing the West Coast and Aleutian Islands for three years.
He married Bonnie Shimmin on Aug. 9, 1947. He worked in the woods as a logger and in a plywood mill in Lebanon, Ore. Chasing an interest apparently sparked by his earlier trip to Alaska, Potter flew to Fairbanks in 1960 on a promise of work, but it didn’t pan out. Instead, he met Jerry Strong of Haines, who told him of work here.
Within days of arriving, he phoned his wife and told her to bring their four children North from Pedee, Ore. The family flew into Juneau on a float plane and lived downtown until about 1965, when Potter bought 20 acres of property at 31 Mile Haines Highway from “Doc” Allen.
Potter operated equipment for state road crews in the early 1960s, clearing the highway with a grader as far north as 75 Mile Haines Highway, said daughter Sharon Cobos. He also worked as a logger, millhand and longshoreman, retiring from dock work in 1992 as union steward.
He operated a feed store at his highway property he called the “Lime Queen Ranch” and put in a big garden every year where he grew potatoes, broccoli, kale, asparagus and carrots. “What we couldn’t use he’d give to neighbors and bring to the Senior Center. He brought a lot of supplies to them,” Cobos said.
Potter was an avid reader who especially liked science fiction and held strong opinions, Cobos said. “We didn’t talk religion or politics. We were on opposite sides of the fence. But he had a dry sense of humor. He was funny.” When his newly arrived family was living above the hardware store on Main Street, Potter drew for his wife a detailed map of how to get to the restaurant across the street, Cobos said.
Potter took flying lessons and at one time owned a plane, fulfilling one of his two life’s dreams. The other was living in Alaska, she said.
Potter enjoyed woodworking and made jewelry boxes, including some heart-shaped ones for friends and family. “All the grandkids have one,” daughter Cobos said.
Family members held a graveside service at Jones Point Cemetery July 9, against Potter’s wishes. “He didn’t want any kind of service. I told him that was for the living, not for him,” Cobos said.
Potter was preceded in death by wife Bonnie and sons Roger and Paul. He is survived by brother Bill Potter of Seattle, Wash.; son Mike Potter of Haines, Sharon Cobos of Keizer, Ore., and by seven grandchildren and about 18 great-grandchildren.