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

King left his mark through carving


September 20, 2018

Joseph King, photo courtesy of family.

Joseph Luke King Jr., 59, known as "Uncle Joe" in Klukwan where he lived, didn't begin carving in the Northwest Coast style until he stepped toward sobriety and wellness about fifteen years ago. Family members who observed his transformation say that carving was a gift from God that arrived when he needed it most. King learned from, and worked under, master carver Jim Heaton. He left his mark most notably on the new village long house. "His hands and energy are in everything there. He was always there, he was always working, and he always worked hard," Heaton said.

King was born in Haines on March 17, 1959 to Joseph King Sr. and Clara Williams King. His parents divorced and his father and Klukwan grandparents, Mary and James King, reared him. He was from the Coho clan, and his Lingit name was Skéenyaa. He attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka where he played basketball. After school he served in the Army National Guard for five years and worked as a longshoreman for Klukwan Inc. at Long Island. "Then the battle with alcohol grew fierce," his family wrote in his eulogy. "It tried to take his life in a car wreck, a fire, while lost in San Francisco, and an extended coma. Many times he ended up in critical care so close to death, and he'd pull through." That coma was a turning point, they said, and credited the Klukwan community with encouraging King's sobriety.

The woodcarving work helped him, as did his daughter Joleen with common-law wife Kath Hotch. As King grew healthier, he tried to be a better parent, and to do his part in village life. For fun he shoveled snow, drove the village side-by-side ATV, yelled "shoot" at school and city league basketball games and tournaments, picked berries, played iPod games, logged 10,000 steps for various SEARHC health challenges, looked for bears, played Bingo, walked his dogs, and watched the Lakers on TV.

This past year, King shared difficult childhood experiences that he said fueled his recurring bouts with alcohol.

The family says he died on Aug. 21 in Haines of complications from a chronic illness.

"Joseph King Jr. was no saint, but people could not help but love him," his family wrote. "His generosity was overwhelming and his humor unexpected."

In addition to his wife and daughter, King leaves ten nieces and nephews, and the children of his aunt, Margaret Stevens. He lived with his mother-in-law, Evelyn Hotch, who died a few weeks after he did. His family thanks all of the Joe King "support team" and encourages those who also wish for sobriety to have faith that friends and family will be there for you.


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