Frederick Kohls

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2009

Longtime Alaska resident Frederick "Fred" Fay Kohls died Jan. 1, 2009, at the Juneau Pioneers Home after an extended illness. He was 85.

Born March 16, 1923, to William Ray and Altha Marie (Baker) Kohls, at the Oliver Place, 3 miles north of Ennis, Mont., he was named in honor of his father's brother, who died of malaria after returning from the Spanish-American War.

In high school, his activities were principally academic, although he played bass horn with the first Ennis High School band and was a skier.

After enrolling at Montana State University in 1941 to study mechanical engineering and play the bass horn in the Bobcat Band, he was called to active duty in the U.S. Army Corps in April 1943. He spent the next 2½ yars in B-29 bomber groups in the Pacific, including service in combat intelligence units at Saipan and Iwo Jima.

After his discharge the day before Christmas 1945, he returned to Ennis. On Aug. 10, 1946, he and his lifelong friends, Jeff Jeffers and Gill "Buster" Saunders, sailed from Seattle to Alaska to enroll in the University of Alaska.

A year later, he and five college friends dropped out of school for a year to drive the Pan-American Highway in two Jeeps from Fairbanks to Patagonia at the tip of South America. They reached Buenos Aires, Argentina, before he returned to Fairbanks to resume his college studies.

After graduating in 1951 with a degree in general science, he joined several Alaska colleagues who formed the Geo-Science Corp., in Maryland, to study the physics of the upper atmosphere, marketing low brightness photometers and research in sodium flare and twilight. In April 1957, he returned to Alaska, joining the Territorial Department of Public Works and Highways as a traffic engineer in Anchorage.

In 1962, he moved to Juneau and later served as the supervisor of data processing for the Department of Transportation's road design. He retired in June 1983 after more than 26 years service.

On Feb. 19, 1966, he married Juneau attorney Shirley Meuwissen. Her friend, the late Marjory Huizer, was matron of honor, and Jeff Jeffers was his best man. Their son, Kevin Kohls, born Nov. 15, 1967, died in 1983 at the age of 15 from a cancerous brain tumor.

In addition to his son, Kevin, he was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Merle Rae Naylor.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Shirley Kohls; younger brother, Henry X. "Heinie" Kohls and wife, Virginia, of Las Vegas; nieces, Cheri Rae Sayer, of Kent, Wash., LeeAnn O'Donnell, of Laurel, Mont., Eva Marie Balanag, of San Diego, and Angel Ann Kohls, of Seattle; and nephew, Frederick Peter Naylor, of Billings, Mont.

A memorial service will be held in Juneau in April and his ashes will be spread near the family's place at Tenakee Springs. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Juneau Public Libraries in memory of Kevin Meuwissen Kohls.

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