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

Kammerer ticked Alaska living off his bucket list


February 21, 2019

David Kammerer

David Kammerer died Feb. 12 of an apparent heart attack while watching TV with Beth French Kammerer, his former wife. He was 73. He was buried at Jones Point last week. Friends, including woodworker Ian Seward and Neil Einsbruch, crafted a pine coffin.

Kammerer was a friendly, smart, and an "adventurous" outdoorsman that loved the natural world, Einsbruch said. Kammerer liked shooting and hunting, playing Scrabble, and visiting with people from all walks of life in coffee shops. He volunteered at the American Legion weekly burger feeds, and paddled area rivers and lakes. A highlight of his decade in Alaska was a three-week kayak trip in Glacier Bay. "Dave was famous for hosting spaghetti dinners with the recipe his mother gave him. He loved his mother," Einsbruch said. Augusta Mary (Sanzone) Kammerer is 96 and lives in Dublin, Ohio.

David Kammerer was born in Cincinnati on Aug. 25, 1945 when his mother was staying with her parents while his father William, a patent attorney for the oil industry, served in the Navy. He was the second of six children.

Kammerer grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and Ponca City, Oklahoma where he played football at Ponca City High. In 1964 he was named to the All-State football team and attended Oklahoma Panhandle State on a football scholarship, where his brother said, he learned that he was "no match for the massive Oklahoma farm boys." Knowing he was likely to be drafted anyway, Kammerer joined the Army "somewhat involuntarily" in 1968, his brother said. His plane was on the way to Vietnam, but made an unscheduled landing in Alaska, allowing a glimpse of the place he came to love. He was later stationed in South Korea where Kammerer remained until he was honorably discharged.

He earned a master's degree in accounting from Oklahoma State, and met Beth French when they both worked in the office at Langston University, a historic black college. They married in 1974. They settled in Hutchinson, Kansas, had two children, and he worked in accounting and finance, collected guns, and was an avid deer and pheasant hunter. His favorite bird dog was Zipper, an English cocker spaniel.

In 2008, following heart bypass surgery, he had an emotional change of heart. "Dave had a very late mid-life crisis, and went to Alaska," Beth Kammerer said. "He wanted to be a mountain man." He retired, gave her everything, including their home and Zipper, and headed for Haines in a rusty 1977 Jeep with $10,000. He set up a wall tent on his cousin Tom Huitger's land and lived his dream. After two years he moved to an apartment in town and his adventures continued and spread to Juneau and the Yukon where he also made friends.

He traveled annually to the Lower 48 to see his mother and family members, and relatives visited him as well. A grandson lived with him for a while. Beth Kammerer remained a friend and recently moved to Haines. His son relocated to Haines as well.

In addition to his mother and William, Kammerer leaves siblings Mary MacAlpine, Patricia Kammerer, Barbara Clark, and Joanne Cantrell; son Jon and (Staci) of Haines and their children Cade, Qwyn, Kyann, Kiana, Karina, and Keeli; daughter Rachel Kammerer of Hutchinson, and her children Elspeth and Finnegan; a great-granddaughter, Eden; many cousins, nieces, and nephews, and his girlfriend, Deb Jutra of Whitehorse.

"Dave was a good guy. He will be sorely missed," Neil Einsbruch said.

A celebration of Kammerer's life will be held at the American Legion on Saturday, Feb. 23.


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