Former resident Robert James Shilts dies at 87


February 28, 2024

Robert James "Snuffy" Shilts Sr., 87, passed away peacefully on Feb. 1, 2024, at home surrounded by family in Ketchikan.

No memorial services are planned.

Born Dec. 28, 1936, in Greenville, California, to Edith and Robert Shilts, Snuffy was the second youngest of eight children. He attended high school and played football for the Bandon Tigers in coastal Oregon. Fast cars, hunting, fishing and logging were his passions.

He met and eventually married Louise Marie Wenzel on May 23, 1964, at the cathedral of the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California, among the giant redwoods.

In 1965 Bob and Louise loaded up their pickup and drove to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to catch the Alaska state ferry Taku to Wrangell because he wanted to "climb big trees and cut them down," the family wrote.

He worked for many logging companies in the 1950s and 1960s, including Sunny Bay Logging, Illinois Valley Logging, Simpson Lumber, Sykes Logging, John Lemay and Dave Drewey until his brother-in-law was killed when hit by a tree.

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Snuffy became a longshoreman, loading the log ships bound for Japan. Eventually, he joined the Laborers Union to work construction for Ritchie Transportation, Dawson Construction, Green Construction and Johnson Construction. At the end of the construction season you would find him out commercial fishing for king salmon to supplement the family income through the winter.

He lived in Ketchikan with his family for six months in 1972 while building the airport on Gravina Island.

There are multiple projects in and around Wrangell which Snuffy completed over the years: concrete paving of Front Street, Case and Zimovia Avenue; plus the photography blind at Anan, the fish ladder at Mill Creek, Earl West rock wall, Pats Creek bridge and many others for the U.S. Forest Service around Southeast.

His leisure time was usually spent with family and friends - playing cards, pinochle and cribbage were his favorites, along with hunting, snowmachining, woodworking and fishing. After retiring with the laborers union he started Bob's Backhoe, doing odd jobs around town. He loved commercial fishing on the Blue Lightening and later the Misty.

He is survived by wife, Louise Shilts; children Roxanna (Terry) Coblentz, LaDonna Botsford, James Shilts Sr., Keith Shilts Sr., Robert (DaVonna) Shilts Jr., Elizabeth, Manfred and Daniel Schnur; grandchildren Kimberly (Eddie), Rachel (Wes), Tristan, Travis (Caroline), Holly, Casey, Kehli, Darren, James Jr., Keith Jr .; a multitude of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Donna Grover, of Wrangell, Roberta Kennedy, of Molalla, Oregon; and many, many nieces and nephews.


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