Olaf "Ole" H. Thorgaard


Posted: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Olaf "Ole" H. Thorgaard, 90, died on Nov. 25, 2004, in Tenakee Springs.

He was born in New England, N.D., on March 6, 1914, and raised there. While growing up, he harvested wheat, worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps and attended Dunwoody Technical School in Minnesota. In 1937, he came to Alaska with his brother, Howard, and made Fairbanks his home. During World War II, Ole joined the Seabees, the construction battalion of the Navy. He served in Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the Pacific.

He was a proud member of the Carpenter's Local 1243 and enjoyed his work and travels to the far corners of Alaska. A respected log cabin craftsman, Ole built the Fairbanks Visitors' Center cabin on First Avenue, as well as many other cabins and homes in Interior Alaska. He homesteaded on Farmers' Loop Road and developed Ski Boot Hill, which he operated for many years - first for family and friends, then for the public. Many Fairbanks residents learned to ski due to his efforts at Ski Boot Hill.

In 1968, he married Marion Thompson Bates. They moved to Tenakee in 1974, where he built a wonderful home with a breathtaking view of Tenakee Inlet from which they could watch whales and other wildlife. He served as mayor of Tenakee for several years, enjoyed gardening and his greenhouse. His excellent elderberry wine was appreciated by his friends. During retirement, he and Marion often traveled by RV in the Lower 48 until Marion's health failed. His family says, "he was a kind and loving caregiver for her until her death."

He had a keen mind and was always interested in how things work, resulting in many interesting projects including making artificial snow for his ski hill, his long-time fascination with boats, mastering darkroom photography, setting up sawmills and his copper mine located within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. He epitomized the Seabee "can do" attitude.

He married Dorrie O' Toole in 1998. She soon died of cancer. He traveled all over the world and earlier this year he again traveled up the coast of Norway to Russia, one of his favorite trips. He was an excellent outdoorsman - hunter, fisherman, logger, prospector - and a long-time member of the Pioneers of Alaska.

His family says, "ever-optimistic, he was an independent and self-sufficient Alaskan to the end, embracing the pioneer values of ingenuity, generosity, and friendliness. He will be missed by all who knew him." He was the last survivor of his immediate family, all of whom lived healthy, productive and exemplary lives, as did he.

He is survived by nieces and nephews, cousins and many friends.

A memorial service will be held for him at the spring in Tenakee.

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