Michael Alan McKimens 1949 - 2020

 Michael Alan McKimens of Craig, Alaska, passed away January 22, 2020. Toward the end of his journey, Mike made it clear that his greatest wish was to spend his remaining days looking out across Bucareli Bay, watching for whales and seeing the sun set across the outer islands of Southern Southeast Alaska. Mike loved his home and his life on Prince of Wales Island, and he was content to spend his final days there.

Mike grew up exploring the streams and forests of Yamhill County, Oregon. His favorite childhood stories were of days spent casting for trout in mountain streams and wandering the fields of the family farm. After graduating from McMinnville High, Mike found his way to the coast, where the fishing was better and where he began a career in public works.

Fate stepped into Mike's life when he came across an ad seeking a new Director of Public Works for the tiny town of Craig, Alaska. Brimming with youthful enthusiasm, Mike applied for the job and was shocked to find himself in charge of the public infrastructure in a village in very rural Alaska. During his tenure at Craig, Mike oversaw dramatic improvements at the city, helping move Craig forward a century or so. Mike was a believer in working hard and leading by example. An island boy at heart, Mike continued to work following his retirement, overseeing projects from POW to the far islands of the western Pacific.

But let's be honest: Mike didn't come to Craig for the work. In fact, Mike often said the job at Craig was simply an excuse to move to the salmon catching capital of the world. Shortly after arriving, Mike began plying the waters around Craig, gradually working his way out to the open ocean. During that time Mike advanced from a 19-foot open skiff to a substantial and beautiful vessel, the Na Pali. Along the way, Mike made many fishing pals, and his annual fish camp was a highlight of the year. Mike was modest, but he did occasionally give this advice to other fishermen: "Always fish with girls. They catch fish." Along with chasing salmon, Mike ferried bird and whale watchers, biologists and sightseers around Southern Southeast. Mike loved being on the water, and he loved his boat, even when she failed him. Na Pali was a fine boat but a fickle mistress.

While Mike was falling in love with the local waters near Craig, he was also beginning a lifelong affair with the land. The Tongass National Forest became perhaps his deepest passion, one that would lead him down a long path of exploration, study, strong beliefs and intense relationships. Mike joined Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), soon finding himself on the board of directors, helping guide policy to save what was left of the magnificent Tongass. Mike spoke with a deep respect for the forest and the people of S/SE. He loved this place, and he marveled at the opportunity it had provided him.

And so, our brother, uncle, friend and tireless warrior is gone. Mike loved the place where he lived, and he loved his life. Mike McKimens, a gentle man, a huge heart; missed by all.

Mike leaves behind a sister, Nancy McKimens; a nephew, Grant Ritchie; a niece, Mya Rorer; many cousins; and a lifetime supply of friends. He requests that gifts in his memory be directed to Southeast Alaska Conversation Council, 2207 Jordan Ave., Juneau, AK 99801.

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