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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 declining health.

"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 family."

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.

Source: Peninsula Clarion, February 10, 2000



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