Frank Putnam gillnetted, worked in wood


July 13, 2023

Frank Putnam, a carpenter, woodworker and gillnet fisherman who built furniture and a four-bedroom home on Small Tracts Road, died July 3 in Crawfordville, Fla. He was 72 and suffered from congestive heart failure. A memorial service was held July 7 in Crawfordville.

Daughter Alita Hermansen of Naples, Italy, described her father as a “consummate reader and autodidact” who had “a professor’s heart and an artisan’s eye.”

A back injury suffered during a construction accident at the American Bald Eagle Foundation in 1987 forced Putnam out of building and gillnetting, so he returned to college in his forties, earning degrees in economics and finance and going on to operate his own accounting and financial consulting firm in Eatonville, Wash. “He basically started all over,” his daughter said.

Born Jan. 16, 1951 in Abilene, Texas, Frank Arthur Putnam III was the third of four children. His father sold insurance and his mom worked as a nurse. A grandfather who was a skilled carpenter taught him the trade at a young age. Construction jobs paid his way through college and Putnam graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in forestry. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and came to Haines in 1977 with wife Lola to build a cabin for Lola’s uncle and aunt, Babe and Evelyn Badgley.

Frank and Lola bought a lot on Small Tracts, where be built their home, woodshop and a boat barn. After working as a bus driving and sporting goods store manager, Putnam fished on the Bandit, Force 3 and Solo before building his own fishing vessel, Lone Star.

“Each thing he did, he did to his own exacting standards of both function and beauty,” his daughter said. “There was never anything that he learned that he didn’t want to learn a little more about.”

In winter months, Putnam operated Spruce Mountain Furniture, building fixtures for local families and projects including public library bookshelves. The Putnams left Alaska in 1993. They lived four years in Wyoming before returning the Pacific Northwest.

In Eatonville, Putnam built a home on a 20-acre parcel with sweeping views of Mount Rainier. He kept rhododendrons and joined the local Lutheran Church. His hobbies included collecting medieval coins, hunting big game, and exploring his ancestral roots to Scotland. He grew teak wood in Panama and scuba-dived in the Caribbean.

Frank and Lola moved to Florida in 1997 to be closer to family. Putnam embraced a grumpy Santa Claus persona and would sometimes sneak off from his loud household of dogs, chickens and grandchildren to a back porch for a cigar and shot of Scotch, daughter Alita said.

“Inevitably, he’d end up holding court there... Soon, a kid would crawl up in his lap, tug his bristly beard and demand a story.”

He was a member of the Haines Presbyterian Church and the American Rhododendron Society.

Frank Putnam is survived by sister Jeanne Watts and brother Paul Putnam of Victoria,Texas, by wife Lola Marie Crawfordville and by children Jana Sayler of Tallahassee, Fla., Alita Hermansen of Italy, and Isaac Putnam of Crawfordville. He also is survived by nine grandchildren.

He was buried in a veteran’s cemetery in Tallahassee, his daughter said, but “he always felt like Alaska was his home.” Remembrances can be emailed to


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