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

Blackwell logged, owned restaurant

 

Dan Blackwell

Dan Blackwell, a trucker, logger, and restaurateur died June 7 at Wildflower Court in Juneau of heart failure. He was 92 and had been there three months following a fall. Stepdaughter Jenny Lyn Smith said plans for a memorial service are pending.

"Dan went back and forth between California and Alaska for years, beginning in 1950," wife Barbara Blackwell said this week. He worked seasonally driving hay and agricultural trucks in California and driving logging trucks and logging in Haines. "Back in the day he logged across Mud Bay and on the Chilkat River across from the (19 Mile) slide," Barb said.

Tall and muscular, Blackwell was hired as Haines Police chief in 1962, a job that meant he sometimes plowed snow, and served as harbormaster and dogcatcher. He quit when he had to put down a dog that bit a child shortly after responding to a serious car accident and a drowning. "He said being chief just wasn't for him. Dan was gentle. A softy," Barb said.

"I don't think I ever seen Dan riled up about anything," said Don Turner, who worked with Blackwell in the woods in 1960s and 1970s. Blackwell worked hard felling trees for Schnabel Lumber Co., when he was no longer "a spring chicken," Turner said.

Blackwell and his brothers mined at Porcupine and pioneered roads in the mining district before selling his claim to John Schnabel.

Blackwell and wife Barb partnered in Dan & Barb's Café, which they owned in the 1980s at the site of the SEABA office at Union and Main streets. "Barb was an excellent cook, and Dan was friendly and easygoing. It was a real good family place," Don Turner said. Local leaders met there informally. "Dan and Barb's was a political movement. It was the center of political discussion in Haines," said former Mayor Fred Shields.

Daniel Wesley Blackwell Jr. was born in Seminole County, Okla. to Daniel Wesley Sr. and Maud Ellen Haws on Nov. 10 1923. He was the sixth of seven children. He was of Cherokee descent and his ancestors had survived The Trail of Tears. His parents were farmers who followed harvests throughout the Southwest during the Great Depression.

He attended school until about third grade, and lost fingers in a blasting cap mishap at age 12. The family eventually settled near Sanger, Calif., where he worked in vineyards. Blackwell began driving trucks, married, had three children, and divorced.

Blackwell met Barbara Peters, a divorced mother of five in Haines, when she was working at a local café. "He was charming," she said. They married in Haines on Nov. 27, 1971. "Dan came in one day and said, 'You want to get married?' and I said 'yes.'" They walked across Main Street, found two witnesses, and were married a few minutes later.

Blackwell worked as an equipment operator on the trans-Alaska pipeline and broke his back in an accident. He used the settlement to buy the café he called Dan & Barb's.

In retirement, Blackwell enjoyed his large extended Haines family, especially his step-grandson Faris Smith. "He took him out varmint and rabbit hunting and fishing," Faris's mother Jenny Lyn Smith said, and was devastated when young Faris died in a snowmachine accident.

Blackwell grew vegetables and lived simply, family members said. He gave up alcohol and tobacco when he met Peters. "We went through a period of partying when we were both getting over divorces. Then we got together and watched movies instead," Barb said. They also took long drives, including in the Lower 48. "Dan had been a trucker all those years and he loved to drive," she said. He was housebound the last four years following a broken hip.

In addition to wife Barb of Haines, Dan Blackwell is survived by children Peggy and Mike and granddaughter Brandy of California; sister Lorene Weathers, and stepchildren Jenny Lyn Smith, Paul Peters and David Peters, all of Haines, Arthur Peters of California and Lorali Moore of Kenai.

Brothers Roy, Cleo, Doyle, Glenn, and Les; son John, and grandson Faris Smith preceded Blackwell in death.

One of Blackwell's nephews, who lived in Haines as a youth, is country western songwriter DeWayne Blackwell, who penned "Mr. Blue" and "I've Got Friends in Low Places."

In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the Haines Volunteer Ambulance crew, P.O. Box 849, Haines, AK 99827.

 
 

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