Celebration of life July 12 for longtime resident John Church

Longtime Wrangell resident John Church, 72, "skipper of the mighty Corvus, lover of music, birds, elaborate knots and puzzles, dear friend to so many with his kind heart, sharp intellect and dry humor," died peacefully from prostate cancer surrounded by loved ones and banjo music on May 5, 2024, in Port Townsend, Washington.

There will be a memorial and celebration of life for John from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 12, at Shoemaker Bay picnic shelter, with a potluck, grilling, music, singing and sharing memories. "Bring instruments, old photos and your best yarns," the family asks. For more information about the event, call KaiLea Wallin at 808-264-6044.

John was born in Cincinnati in April 1952 to John L. Church Jr. and Mickey Magee Church, the second of three children. The family lived in several towns in California before relocating to Connecticut.

Immediately after finishing high school in 1970, John headed west for college, where he was assigned a roommate (Leo Barlow) from Wrangell. "During his college years, John was not a standout student, but was known for his prowess as a hitchhiker, having once completed a coast-to-coast jaunt in just 71 hours," his family wrote. Leo and John were friends and housemates during their years at Stanford, and he met enough other Wrangellites to move there after graduation in 1975.

Arriving at a time when many Wrangell workers had left for jobs building the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, John was quickly employed, first on the city road crew and then on a seine boat. After 11 seasons of seining, he became a hand troller, fishing over 30 years on the Corvus. He also halibut fished on different boats, operated an oyster farm for five years, and taught school between fishing seasons, mostly in Juneau.

When not working or helping to raise his children, John could often be found with his nose in a book or a banjo on his knee. He also enjoyed designing and constructing buildings on his homestead at Thoms Place. Kayaking, skiing, birding, hiking and long road trips were other activities he loved, as well as spending time with his grandsons.

John was preceded in death by parents Mickey and John, stepmother Fran Church, and sister Sally Church Petersen.

He is survived by sister Eileen Church; daughter KaiLea Wallin (Rob); son Peregrine Woolwine Church; grandsons Etolin and Kingston; stepsisters Aileen Gagney (Barb) and Sarah Conover (Doug); ex-wife Phyllis Woolwine; past partners and friends Anna (Ja) Wallin, Katya Kirsch, Laurie Lamm and Nikki Carpendale; current partner Betsy Wirt; and various nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Donations in John's name can be made to the Irene Ingle Public Library. Cards may be sent to KaiLea Wallin, 1671 31st St., Port Townsend, WA 98368, and Peregrine Church, 4060 5th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA. 98105.


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