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In Memoriam: William R. Gregory


Long time Alaska resident William R. Gregory passed away peacefully at his home on July 11, 2017 at the age of 89, surrounded by his family.  Bill was born on September 18, 1927 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Ercel and Velma Gregory, he had four sisters:  Jean, Patricia, Elma and June.  Growing up in Indiana, Bill spent summers working on his Uncle’s Terra Haute farm where he learned his strong work ethic and the farming way of life.  Bill graduated from Manual Training High School in 1945 and joined the Navy in December 1945.  Bill served on board the U.S.S. Mississippi and was honorably discharged, whereupon he entered Indiana University and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education.   There he lettered in gymnastics and achieved near perfection on the flying rings.  Bill went on to earn his Master’s Degree in School Administration from Ball State University.  He began his first teaching job in Hobart, Indiana as a 7th grade science teacher in a school building built before the Civil War.

Bill married the love of his life, Bernice Mikos on December 27, 1952 and they recently celebrated 64 years of marriage.   Together their adventurous spirit led them from Indiana to Downy, California where Bill taught school for two years.   After reading too many Jack London stories, in the summer of 1959, Bill and Bernice bought a truck and camper and packed up their growing family of Bill Jr, Elly, Linda and David and drove up the Al-Can Highway to Alaska.  Bill accepted a teaching position at Kodiak High School teaching biology, chemistry and physics, and later he worked as the Director of Rural Schools traveling around the island to the various villages and school sites.    After several years, Bill was appointed the first Director of Kodiak Community College.

Over the next 5 years the couple welcomed four more children into the family:  Janice, Lori, Michael and Steven.

While in Kodiak, the family experienced the Great Alaska Earthquake in 1964.  Bill graciously accepted several frightened people into our home who were seeking higher ground, as our house was high up on Pillar Mountain.  With the power out and night falling, Bill recalled that you couldn’t see anything but could hear wood crunching, boats crashing into town and buildings coming off their foundations as a tidal wave hit the island. The boat harbor was empty the next morning and Bill recalled that a 100-foot-long crab tender had washed up into the middle of town with a cargo of spoiling crab.    Bill calmed and comforted his family and neighbors during the aftermath, and assisted in the clean-up and rebuilding of Kodiak.

In 1969 Bill accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools Bristol Bay in Naknek, Alaska where the family lived for 6 years before moving to Unalaska, Alaska where Bill worked as Superintendent of Unalaska City Schools.  He and Bernice then spent two years living in Port Townsend, Washington until the pull of Alaska prompted a return to Anchorage and a job at Alaska Pacific University as Director of Auxiliary Affairs.    They moved again several years later to Barrow, Alaska where Bill worked as Transportation Manager at the North Slope Borough School for 2 years before he retired.   Bill was an accomplished carpenter and built houses, boats and beautiful cutting boards for his family.  He was a kind, generous and loving man who was passionate about educating all students as well as his eight children and thirteen grandchildren.  Bill had a generous and loving nature and cherished his family and their many gatherings. He was an active and dedicated member of Sacred Heart Church in Wasilla, Alaska, and the Knights of Columbus, and he often volunteered at the local food bank.   He was an avid reader, and a wise and thoughtful man. 

Bill is survived by his wife Bernice and their eight children and thirteen grandchildren:

Bill Gregory, Jr. (Gayle); Elly Gregory; Linda Lekanoff (Nick): David Gregory (Patty); Janice Luppen (Kevin); Lori, Michael and Steven Gregory.    Grandchildren: Christopher Gregory (Sarah), David, Evan and Stacy Gross, Nick and Jana Lekanoff, Gregory Luppen (Shana), Sadie Luppen, James David Gregory and Delores Gregory-Palmer (Nathan), Colton and Katie Dirks, and Cecilee Dushkin and his sister Elma.  He is preceded in death by his parents and sisters Jean, June and Patty.

Condolences may be sent to P.O. Box 877565 Wasilla, Alaska 99687.   The family thanks Hospice of Wasilla for their compassionate care, and Father Joseph and the staff and community of Sacred Heart Church.