Robert Giersdorf

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

Robert "Bob" Giersdorf, a travel and tourism leader and the youngest member of the first Alaska Legislature, died Feb. 5, 2003, in Seattle after a brief illness. He was 67.

Born in Great Falls, Mont., on Feb. 24, 1935, Giersdorf spent two years at the University of Oregon before he moved to Alaska, working first in construction and then the airline industry. He was elected to represent Fairbanks in the first Alaska Legislature in 1959.

Giersdorf served for one year in the House before moving to the Senate on Dec. 26, 1959. After one month, he resigned because the state constitution required Senate members to be at least 25. Giersdorf was two months shy of his 25th birthday when he joined the Senate. After he resigned, Edmond Orbeck was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Egan, and Giersdorf was appointed to replace Orbeck in the House.

Later, he held the position of senior vice president of marketing and sales for Alaska Airlines for 12 years. In 1972, he and his wife, Lori, created Alaska Tour & Marketing Services Inc. Several tourism businesses followed, including Exploration Cruise Lines, Glacier Bay Lodge, YachtShip Cruise Line, American West Steamboat Co. and Lewis & Clark Cruises and Tours.

Giersdorf maintained his home and business headquarters in Seattle beginning in the 1970s, but spent much of his career and leisure time in Alaska. He had been president of the Alaska Visitors Association, and served as a national chairman of the Travel Industry Association of America.

His family remembered him as a tireless entertainer who enjoyed being a host. They said he pursued every aspect of his life with great passion and joy.

His wife, Lori, died on Dec. 7, 2002. He is survived by his daughter, Debbie Giersdorf-Ritchie; his son, David Giersdorf; his sisters, Barbara Brock and Kathy Fields; his mother, Genevieve Chase; and numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Memorial services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Evergreen-Washelli Funeral Home Chapel in Seattle. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the American Heart Association.

Gov. Frank Murkowski ordered state flags be lowered from Feb. 7-17 in memory of Giersdorf.

"He was an important part of the growth of Alaska Airlines into a world-class air carrier," Murkowski said. "He will be missed."

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