John Werner Enge

Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010

Petersburg resident John Werner Enge died Friday, May 7. He was 95.

John was a World War II veteran and Northwest fishing industry leader in his hometown of Petersburg. His grandparents were among the first Norwegian immigrants to settle the town, and John was one of the last survivors of that early generation.

John was born to Martin and Augusta Enge on Jan. 28, 1915. The wild territory provided countless adventures and he relished exploring the surrounding waters and virgin forests. He attended the University of Washington in 1934, where he studied fisheries with Dr. Lauren Donaldson. After college, he worked for the International Pacific Halibut Commission, spending a winter on a research schooner in British Columbia.

Soon after the U.S. entered World War II, John joined the Naval Air Corps. He later switched to sea duty and was given command of LST 921. On the eve of the Normandy invasion in 1944, the ship was struck by a German torpedo and sank, killing 43 sailors. His next assignment was in the Pacific, skippering LST 78, which dodged kamikazes and performed support for the Okinawa invasion.

After the war he returned to Petersburg and fished with his father and brother. In the fall of 1946, at a Sons of Norway dance, he met a young school teacher named Carol Anderson. They married in Juneau on Christmas Eve.

John began his career as a buyer for Whiz Fish Co. in Pelican. After four years in the remote outpost, he and his family returned to Petersburg, where he went to work as plant manager for Kayler-Dahl Fish Company, later owned by Whitney-Fidalgo. As one of the few in the seafood industry with an academic background, he came to be a respected for his ideas on developing new fisheries, expanding markets and protecting the quality of fresh fish. He concluded his career at Icicle Seafoods.

John served on the boards of the National Bank of Alaska, Alaska King Crab Marketing Association and Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. He was active in the Boy Scouts, Masons, Elks, Shriners, VFW and American Legion. He and Carol devoted time to the Pioneers of Alaska, and headed a history project that led to the book, "Pioneer Profiles: A History of Petersburg Settlers 1898-1959," which recounts stories of Petersburg's early families. He loved the outdoors, and his children cherish memories of boat trips, berry picking, fishing, camping and hunting.

He is survived by Carol, his wife of 63 years; sons, Arnold, of Petersburg, John, of Medford, Ore., and Steve, of Port Townsend, Wash.; daughters Marilee, of Berkeley, Calif., and Elisabeth Enge-Nyssen, of Edmonds, Wash.; and 12 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

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