Gwendolyn 'Gwen' Irene Stetson

Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2009

Longtime Alaska resident Gwendolyn "Gwen" Irene Stetson died April 12, 2009, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital after a lengthy illness. She was 77.

She was born on Jan. 2, 1932, in Riverside, Calif., to Edward and Thelma (Harrison) Grip. Her family moved to Grants Pass, Ore., where she graduated high school.

She married Ken Jones in July 1949, and they moved to Alaska shortly thereafter. They settled in Spenard and opened Albers Feed Store. They were also co-owners of Totem Eggs, which operated chicken ranches in Palmer, Anchorage and Seward.

She earned her private pilots license in the 1950s and was a lifetime member of the 99'ers, a northwest-based flying club for women pilots only. She flew her Super Cub around southcentral Alaska, ferrying family and friends to their cabin at Beaver Lake and spotting fish in Prince William Sound. She was one of Alaska's first female bush pilots, and she operated a grizzly bear guiding operation on Kodiak Island for some time.

She attended Faith Christian Community Church with her daughter, Karen, on a regular basis.

She married Ron Fox in January 1964 and later moved to Seward, where she and Fox owned and operated Eight Star Eggs, which still operates today as Alaska's largest in-state egg producer.

In March 1971, she married Capt. Herb Stetson, moving to Juneau in 1976, where they lived until Herb's death in 1987. Gwen was a master gardener and landscaper and ran Gwen's Garden Centre from her home in Juneau. After Herb's death, she lived in Haines for a short time and then spent several years moving between her cabin in Tagish Lake in the summers and Anchorage in the winter.

"She loved being at the cabin, entertaining friends and family with picnics, camp fires, fishing trips and meals," her family said. "She was a gourmet chef and nothing made her happier than feeding hungry people. She had a gift of hospitality and was always happy to have visitors, especially if they were hungry and played cards."

She was preceded in death by her parents, Thelma and Ed Grip; and husband, Capt. Herb Stetson.

She is survived by her children, Lynn Jones, of Tyler, Texas; Ken Jones Jr. and wife, Pam, Karen Jones Zehrung; Michael Jones and wife, Tara, Stephanie Jones, of Anchorage; and Becky Fox, of Fairbanks; stepchildren, Chris Stetson, Jon Stetson and wife, Darcy, of Juneau; Josh Stetson and wife, Ann, of Anchorage; and Roby Durdik and husband, Greg, of Lachine, Mich.; 23 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren; and many close friends in Canada and the Lower 48.

She also leaves behind her beloved dog, Robbie, her family said. Also, the family wishes to thank Dr. John Mues and his staff for the "wonderful care of Mom over the years."

A memorial service will be held the weekend of July 24 at her cabin in Tagish Lake, where her ashes will be spread over her prize rose bushes, as she requested. Friends and family are encouraged to attend.

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