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

Dobler sold insurance, real estate


John D. Dobler, an insurance and real estate broker whose success here helped him establish a larger real estate investment company in Tacoma, Wash., died Nov. 22 at age 90.

Friends in Haines this week remembered him as a hard-working businessman with a range of interests who was devoted to friends and family.

Dobler operated Dobler Insurance Agency and Dobler Investment Co. He rescued from demolition the Chilkat Bakery building in the 1950s, which was then a broken-down former bunkhouse for highway construction workers.

He rebuilt its foundation and the building reopened as a bakery operated by his brother-in-law, Gordon Tait, said longtime resident and former business associate John Schnabel.

Dobler also purchased a dozen government-built houses on View Street after high prices sunk an initial plan for them, Schnabel said. According to an obituary published in the Tacoma News-Tribune, Dobler grew up in Tacoma and moved to Alaska after serving in World War II. After three years in Juneau, he moved to Haines in 1954.

"He looked at Haines as a fantastic, expanding place, with 50 jobs connected with the (military fuel) pipeline and a growing forest industry. Haines was exploding in opportunity," Schnabel said.

Dobler was an investor and renter at Schnabel's Gateway Building on Main Street. He also was a trustee for the Haines Presbyterian Church, a volunteer fireman, and a member of the Bills Club. He also served as a U.S. Customs agent here and renovated Fort Seward's guard house into a residence, removing bars from cells there, family members said this week.

Dobler and his family left for Tacoma in 1965, where Dobler invested in apartments, owning more than 500 rentals at the time of his retirement. "He moved out of here after making a good nest egg," Schnabel said.

Former resident Tony Tengs of Juneau said Dobler was a "brilliant" real estate investor. "I enjoyed an afternoon with him once in the 1980s, driving around the Gig Harbor (Washington) area looking at real estate prospects. He had great fundamental insight into the value of land and buildings in the long run, and did very well by that," Tengs said.

Dobler was born in Tacoma. While attending the University of Glasgow in Scotland, he met his wife, Ruby. They married in June 1946 and had six children. Dobler enjoyed gardening, road trips, boating and photography, according to the Tacoma obituary.

He is survived by wife Ruby, his six children, 12 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter and by brother-in-law David Black of Spokane, Wash., a former Haines resident. He was preceded in death by sister-in-law Minto Tait, also a former resident.

A memorial service was held Dec. 5 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Tacoma.


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