Allen spent life in aviation industry
Vernon Allen, a career aircraft mechanic who arrived in Haines six years ago aboard his 35-foot sailboat, died April 17 at his Haines Senior Village apartment. He was 80 and suffered from complications of a stroke.
Allen was born on a homestead in Marshall County, Okla. to Ralph Allen, an oilfield worker, and wife Daisy. He attended high school in Pawnee, Okla., where he played school basketball and was nicknamed "Pinky" for his head of red hair.
Son Mark Allen of Haines said his dad's stories included "noodling" catfish from barrels he set in the Arkansas River and befriending an injured owl that he nursed back to health. Vernon enlisted in the Army during the conflict in Korea and served as a helicopter mechanic, his son said.
When he returned from the war, he learned to fly, pursuing a boyhood dream that started while watching planes deliver mail in rural Oklahoma, his son said. He found work as a civilian flight mechanic and aviation maintenance teacher at Vance Air Force Base in Enid. While there, he met his wife Marilyn, who was working at a motor vehicles office. They married in 1957.
The family moved to New Jersey in 1974 when Allen took a job working for E-Systems, a defense contractor. His work included maintaining Army aircraft and helping with research and development for observation systems, his son said. The family moved again in 1979 to Greenville, Texas, where Allen worked on commercial aircraft at Love Field near Dallas-Fort Worth.
Fulfilling a long-held dream, Allen headed north with his family in 1987, finding work as a mechanic at Era Aviation in Anchorage. He worked there 10 years and bought a sailboat he kept in Seward, taking trips around Resurrection Bay.
Allen suffered a stroke following bypass surgery in 2007, but son Mark said that didn't stop his father from serving as navigator on a trip in the boat from Seward to Haines a few months later. "He was my navigator and I was the pilot. I loaded dad up and we sailed right over. It was his last great adventure."
Besides certification for working on planes, his father was an aviation inspector, a certified flight instructor, and a plane owner and private pilot who taught him how to fly, Mark Allen said. His father also was a ham radio operator, Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster who enjoyed camping and canoeing. "We canoed every river and creek in New Jersey and Oklahoma," he said.
In his final years, his dad would motor his electric wheelchair to the harbor to visit Mark, who works as seasonal harbormaster.
Surviving family members include wife Marilyn Allen of Haines; sons Mark Allen of Haines and Tim Allen of Decatur, Texas; daughter Connie Allen of San Antonio, Texas, and five grandchildren including Brook Cinocco of Haines and Klover Lee Cinocco of Skagway.
He was preceded in death by brother Roy Allen of Loveland, Colo.