August 22, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 33

From hardscrabble roots, Geary carved a rugged way

Friends and family members Sunday paid final respects to Mickey Geary, a tough and competitive logger and equipment operator who called himself “King Mick” and was described by a family member this week as “Archie Bunker on steroids.”

Mickey Geary

“Everybody knew Mick, but few – if anyone – understood him,” said son Jim Hardy of Eugene, Ore.

Geary died in Anchorage Aug. 14 of complications from cancer. He was 84.

A note on a recent medical chart describing Geary said, “This is a cantankerous old man,” but that hardly tells the story, Hardy said. Geary was a mean drunk, a bad husband and “the toughest, orneriest bastard in southern Oregon” in his day, known well by the police, he said. “They chased him around that country for years.”

In Haines, Geary sometimes broke off long friendships due to small, perceived slights, his son said. “He was belligerent, arrogant, rude and prejudiced… He thought everybody was out to get him, so he was out to get them. He was from a very poor background.”

But Geary also was an accomplished, self-taught mechanic and carpenter who built homes in Oregon and Haines, rebuilt auto engines, and stayed busy with projects to the end of his life. He would be the first to help a person in trouble and to the end kept a photo at his bedside of the wife he was married to only a few years in the 1950s, Hardy said. “I think he felt guilty for treating her the way he did. He never found a woman to replace her.”

Geary was born March 7, 1929, in Shady Cove, Ore., the second of four children of Ben Geary, a moonshiner, and Georgia Mae Henry. Mickey dropped out of school in fourth grade after his parents split. He went to work supporting his family, cutting wood with a cross-buck saw during the Great Depression, Hardy said. “His biceps were so big, he used to say he swallowed a football.”

Geary joined the U.S. Army in 1951 and operated a bulldozer during the Korean War. In 1953, he married Shirley Louise Andrus. He worked in a Medford, Ore.,sawmill and came to Alaska as a logger in 1961, working in camps around Juneau and Admiralty Island. He arrived in Haines later that decade as an independent equipment operator and trucker. Later, he opened an auto shop he operated until 2008.

Family members said Geary was a longtime competitor and organizer of the state fair logging show, a one-time champion of the Alcan 200 snowmachine race, and a sportfishermen and hunter whose black-tailed buck once held a place in Boone and Crockett listings.

Erwin Hertz, one of the co-organizers of the logging show, said Geary typically won the power-bucking show event. “We always loved Mickey, but Mickey was Mickey. He was always there to win. If he could take advantage of a situation, he would. I’d always have to say to Mickey, ‘We’re not having a sawing contest. We’re having a logging contest.’”

Hardy related an account of Geary resisting paying the City of Haines charges for a water hook-up to his house on the town’s west side. Instead, he drilled his own well, and when it became clogged with clay, used about eight times as much dynamite punching through the muck as was advised. The explosion blew off the well casing and a chunk of the home’s roof, sending debris flying and prompting Geary to skedaddle to Juneau until the heat blew over. “You could hear it all over town.”

Daughter Ginger Bean of Juneau said her father, very sick with cancer near the end of his life, put together a ceiling fan with hundreds of parts. “He’d work on it as long as he could, then lie back down. His brain and his hands were messed up, but he could still put things together. I was blown away by his diligence.”

Geary started his days with a cup of coffee at the Fogcutter Bar. After a graveside service Sunday, family members bought a round for the house in his memory. Donations in Geary’s name can be made to the state fair logging show, P.O. Box 385, Haines.

Family members include son Jim Hardy of Eugene, Ore., daughter Ginger Bean of Juneau and nephew Ron Sowards of Juneau, as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Gene Geary, a son who lived in northern California, is buried at Jones Point.