Degtoff ran lodge, sold firewood
February 9, 2023
Nick Degtoff, a former resident who operated a firewood business and a vacation rental, died Dec. 30, 2022 in Bradenton, Fla. He was 61 and took his life after suffering years of depression.
Friends remembered him as good-natured and energetic.
“He was always a nice guy,” said Joanie Wagner, who delivered mail to Degtoff’s place in the Four Winds Subdivision. “He was apologetic when there was too much snow and he hadn’t gotten around to digging out his mailbox.”
Nicholas Clay Degtoff was born July 8, 1961 in Orlando, Fla. to Nicholas Vladimer Degtoff and Charolett Anne Baker. His family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where he attended school, including one year at Ohio State University in Columbus.
From a young age, Degtoff sought adventure, his mother said this week. Inspired by Native American rites of passage, at age 12 he challenged himself and spent five days alone in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky with just a backpack, a bow and arrows, and some fishing gear.
At age 18, he set off with 20 other American, Canadian and European youths on a three-month Encounter Overland journey through Europe and Asia, sleeping out at night and reaching Kathmandu, Nepal. He stumbled over a corpse in a gutter in India and passed through Iran two weeks before the U.S. Embassy takeover there.
In a Dayton newspaper article about the trip, Degtoff was quoted as saying, “It is better to travel overland to understand the people. We’ve got it so good here and don’t realize it. Over there you worry about what you can eat and if you’ll die the next day.”
From books he read while working at a hotel in Washington, D.C., Degtoff became smitten with Alaska. He landed a summer job working at a lodge at Denali National Park and in 1988 packed his belongings into a small truck and moved to Juneau, then Haines.
He built three homes on two pieces of property in the upper valley after establishing and operating his Fabulous Firewood company. One of the homes was operated as a bed and breakfast, Mountain Greenery Chalet.
In 1999, Degtoff made headlines when he advertised for a male cat to mate with his 22-pound Maine coon cat Oreo. “He’s serenading her and she’s hissing, so I guess they’re off to a good start,” he reported.
Degtoff married in 2007. In 2012, he collapsed from shortness of breath and was diagnosed with emphysema and heart disease, requiring him to be on oxygen. He lost his business, his income and his properties, and his marriage failed.
After he sold his properties, Degtoff stayed with neighbor Barb Roth, a 40-year upper valley resident. “He had a real good, soft side. When I was working at 33 Mile, I’d come home and he’d have my house cleaned up every day. I really liked Nick. He was a good guy.”
Hoping for a restart, Degtoff moved to Sarasota, Fla. in 2019, sharing a home with his sister. “He worked a variety of jobs when h¬e could to pay his share of the rent and to pay child support…but his despair of how his life had evolved was just too great,” mother Charolett Baker said in an email.
Degtoff was preceded in death by his father, Nicholas Vladimer Degtoff. His is survived by son Nicholas George Degtoff of Haines, by daughter Thea Smuckler, by grandsons Lucas and Jack Smuckler and grand-daughter Talia, by mother Charolett Baker, sister Marilyn Degtoff and by brother Christopher Goodwin.
Degtoff was an organ donor whose corneas and kidneys went to others.
The family plans to spread Degtoff’s ashes over his father’s grave in Kissimmee, Fla. and in locations in Southeast Alaska.