Hiker dies from fall on Stroller White

Scribner known regionally for role in transportation issues

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2005

A retired state official widely credited with helping Southeast Alaska cities achieve their transportation goals was found dead Thursday after an apparent fall from a steep slope on Juneau's Mount Stroller White.

Friends said Jonathan Scribner brought enthusiasm and professionalism to both his career and his outdoor pursuits.

"He was just a wonderful man," Ginger Johnson said Thursday at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, where she worked with him before his retirement as Southeast regional director seven years ago. "He was a wonderful friend. You could always count on him to do the right thing."

Alaska State Troopers coordinated a search for Scribner, 63, Wednesday night. They reported that he left home for the hike at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, telling his wife, Kit, he would be back at 7 p.m. Later cell phone calls indicated he had reached the summit at about 2:45 p.m. After he failed to return and couldn't be reached, search crews began looking for him at about 11 p.m.

Bruce Bowler of SEADOGS - Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Searches - said Scribner was located by Juneau Mountain Rescue team members in a TEMSCO helicopter shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday.

The pilot, Mitch Horton, base manager for TEMSCO, said rescuers saw a snow shoe and an ice ax before finding Scribner in the snow near the base of Mount Stroller White, not far from where it merges with Mount McGinnis, near the Mendenhall Glacier.

He described the area as a steep slope.

Bowler said SEADOGS highly recommends that people not hike alone.

"He wasn't careless," said a friend, Greg Capito, who worked with Scribner when he was with the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

If he wanted to hike or take his Bayliner somewhere, he meticulously planned things out and was prepared for what could go wrong, Capito said.

Scribner applied his engineering background to his love of the outdoors as well as his field work for the DOTPF, Capito said.

When he left the department, then-Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan proclaimed his retirement date, Feb. 7, 1997, as Jonathan Scribner Day in the city.

The proclamation included thanks for Scribner getting a Thane Road project out to bid on his last day of work.

Johnson shared thank-you letters Scribner received, sent by community leaders from Yakutat to Saxman. From Skagway, he received particular thanks for his work on the Klondike Highway Maintenance Agreement. From Ketchikan, he received appreciation for his work on the Tongass Avenue project.

"John is a rare individual, extremely capable of gliding through the political mine fields, while at the same time always willing to stop and discuss with enthusiasm and insight the technical aspects of any project," Ketchikan Airport Manager Don Chenhall wrote.

In the Legislature, the speaker of the House and president of the Senate signed a statement honoring Scribner for his contributions. "All Alaskans, both now and in the future, will continue to benefit from his efforts," it said.

Scribner began his career in state government in 1969 with what was then the Department of Health and Welfare. After two years in Fairbanks he returned in Juneau in 1971 as director of air and water quality for the newly created DEC.

Scribner started working for DOTPF in 1979 as an assistant deputy commissioner for design and construction. When the department regionalized in 1983, he became head of the Southeast region.

Pat Kemp at the department in Juneau described Scribner as a down-to-earth man with high morals and integrity. He left a legacy of high standards when he retired, Kemp added.

Capito said Scribner "was enamored with the spirit of the country and lived each day to experience it." On days when bad weather might keep others from going out, Scribner would figure out ways to make his hunting, fishing or hiking plans work. And if you went out with him, you always got back to work on time the next day.

"And yet, he was humble and understated and never bragged about his considerable success in the field or office," Capito said. "But everyone who knew him knew he was the real deal."

The engine of his Bayliner would have had more miles on it than any 50 boats in the harbor, including the charters, he said.

"His spirit is up there in them hills," he said. "His spirit is out there on the green water."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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