Robert J. Mackey
Longtime Alaska homesteader Robert J. Mackey
died at 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 30, 2000, in Port Angeles, Wash. He was 77.
There will be no services at his request.
Born Jan. 7, 1923, to Frank and Tilly Mackey in
Seattle, Wash., he attended Garfield High School in Seattle, and at the age of
16 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. Mr. Mackey came to Alaska in 1941
at the age of 18.
Upon his return to Seattle, Mr. Mackey said in
an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "My life has changed forever
by this unforgettable experience and the unsurpassed scenic grandeur. It will
remain in my memory indefinitely."
He immediately began making plans to someday
move to Alaska and homestead, but on Feb. 22, 1943, Mr. Mackey enlisted in the
U.S. Army and served in the military police in London, England, attached to the
8th Air Force, and later in Germany for the duration of World War II. He was
discharged on Feb. 22, 1946, and returned to Seattle.
Anxious to return to Alaska, he moved to
Fairbanks and worked as a warehouseman for a year, saving most of the money he
earned, while at the same time searching for a home site. Mr. Mackey eventually
homesteaded on the Kenai Peninsula outside Soldotna in the area that would
become known as Mackey Lakes.
He returned to Seattle in June 1947 and spent
his entire savings of $2,700 on a new civilian Jeep, equipped with a power winch
and power take-off. He also bought a surplus trailer and packed it with a
30-inch circular saw, an oil drum space heater, camp cook stove, government tent
and other supplies and returned to Alaska. He spent his first winter on his
Mackey Lake home site in the tent.
In the following years, he worked on the Alaska
Railroad, Sterling Highway, Elmendorf Air Force Base, and for Bechtel, on the
Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline in Valdez.
He retired from the Alaska Laborers Union in
1977. Mr. Mackey once said if he found a woman who could live in the bush, he'd
marry her. But he remained a bachelor all his life.
Mr. Mackey spent his remaining years building
his dream home on Mackey Lake and visiting friends at the Veterans of Foreign
Wars center and Senior Center. He often traveled Outside to visit his favorite
nephew and namesake, Robert Nyden, a writer in Santa Rosa, Calif., and his
sister, Margaret Massey in Sequim, Wash.
In August 1998, after 51 years of living on
Mackey Lake, he moved to Sequim to be closer to his family because of his
"Robert loved gardening and watching wildlife,"
his nephew Robert said. "I will miss his wonderful humor and interesting stories
about his life and travels. I know he will be greatly missed by his friends and
Mr. Mackey is survived by his brother, Charles
Mackey of Des Plains, Ill.; sister and brother-in-law Margaret and Bob Massey of
Sequim; nephews Robert Nyden of Santa Rosa, Don Nyden of Wash., and Tim Nyden of
Va.; and niece SuzAnne Wolf of Oregon.
Clarion, February 10, 2000