Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Stockbridge was miner, operator

 

Owen Stockbridge

Owen Stockbridge, an equipment operator and mechanic who moved to Haines after 30 years in the Interior, died after a brief illness Aug. 11 in Seattle. He was 57.

Owen Brown Stockbridge was born in Waterville, Maine, on Oct. 27, 1956 and attended high school in Barre. Before graduating, he hitchhiked across the country and back. "He just wanted to see the California coast," said wife Joyce Stockbridge.

Stockbridge left for Alaska after graduation in 1975, hitchhiking with friends to Anchorage. He partnered on a trapline along the remote Kandik River, northeast of Fairbanks, and near Twelvemile Summit. He trapped lynx, beaver and marten. He also worked as deckhand on a barge that delivered fuel to mines and towns along the Yukon River, including Dawson City, Y.T.

In fall of 1982, Stockbridge drove a Harley Davidson motorcycle home to visit family in Hubbardston, Maine, where he became reacquainted with his high school sweetheart. "I think I was walking to the grocery store and he came rolling up on his Harley, and that's all she wrote," his wife said this week. "He said, 'I'll take you to Alaska and if you don't like it, I'll bring you back.' That was 32 years ago."

Stockbridge worked for the local placer miners in Central and held his own claims. When small-scale mining began to wane in the mid-1980s, he signed on with the Alaska Department of Transportation, working as an inspector and operator on the Steese Highway and in other areas of the state.

In 2003, Stockbridge went to work for the state Division of Forestry, maintaining logging roads and operating an attack bulldozer on wildland fires. "He went where others wouldn't during those fires. He inspected equipment used on the fires for operational and safety issues," his wife said. "He was an asset anywhere he worked. He knew how to operate, maintain and fix anything mechanical."

Attracted to Haines for its fishing opportunities and small-town atmosphere, Stockbridge convinced his wife to move here in 2007. He retired in 2008 and began improving their Small Tracts Road property, using lumber he milled from his own trees. He welded and built tractor attachments and boat trailers. "He always loved hunting and fishing, and Haines was perfect for this," Joyce said.

Stockbridge enjoyed hosting family on visits. His mother made many trips up to Alaska, swimming in Circle Hot Springs at 30 below and watching bald eagles in Haines.

On a funeral home website, brother Keith Stockbridge recounted Owen making a surprise visit to the military school he was attending, arriving with hair down to his waist. "He truly lived the life he wanted to live, which is all anyone can do."

A private service was planned.

Stockbridge is survived by wife Joyce Stockbridge, Haines; mother Shirley Dreyer, Hanover, Pa.; sister Norma Hildebrand, Hanover; brothers Jim Stockbridge, Carver, Mass. and Keith Stockbridge, Mount Kisco, N.Y; stepbrother Jason Stockbridge of Sticks, Pa.; and nieces Meghan Gallery, Washington, D.C., and Rebecca Gallery, Takoma Park, Md.

 
 

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