John B. Hakala died Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, with niece Ann (Hakala) Hagestead at his side. He was 86.
A gathering of family and friends will take place at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 12, at Fairbanks Pioneer Home and at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at Soldotna United Methodist Church.
Mr. Hakala was born Sept. 12, 1919, in Ironwood, Mich., to John and Nannie (Sarkela) Hakala, the second child and first son of eight children. A graduate of Ironwood High School, he studied prelaw at Ironwood Junior College, graduating in 1940.
He applied for flying cadet training and enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Feb. 14, 1941. After completing fighter training, he was transferred to B-25 bombers and specially trained to launch torpedoes. On Dec. 7, 1942, Mr. Hakala arrived in Alaska. Assigned to the 73rd Bomb Squadron at Umnak, he flew more than 70 missions for the 73rd and 77th Bomber Squadrons during the Aleutian Campaign, and later flew with the 390th Bomber Squadron in the Philippines. He was honorably discharged with the rank of captain on Feb. 20, 1946. His decorations include the Air-Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theatre ribbon with three battle stars, Philippine Liberation ribbon with one battle star and World War II Victory Medal.
On June 7, 1947, he married Mae Marie Matara. He entered Michigan Tech, earning a bachelor’s degree in forestry. They drove the Alaska Highway and continued to Fairbanks, where he registered for the University of Alaska’s new master’s program. The couple spent two summers working on the Kenai Moose Range while he completed his degree in wildlife management in 1952.
They moved to Kotzebue, where he managed the reindeer herds under the BIA, Alaska Reindeer Service. They left to manage Yutana Barge Lines at Nenana, delivering fuel and freight along the Yukon River and its tributaries. After two years, Mr. Hakala returned to Kotzebue as vice president and CEO of B and R Tug and Barge Lines.
In 1958, the couple returned to Kenai, where he managed the Kenai Moose Range. He flew a Super Cub on floats to monitor activity and maintain a moose count on the range. From 1963 to 1967, he was refuge manager at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan, then returned to Alaska to oversee the Atomic Energy Commission Project on Amchitka Island. In 1969, he returned to the Kenai Moose Range as refuge manager until retiring in 1972.
He was a life member of the Pioneers of Alaska Igloo No. 33, Auxiliary 16. The Hakalas remained at their home on Sport Lake near Soldotna until Mae passed away Nov. 14, 1996. Mr. Hakala later moved to the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, where he remained until his death.
“John was a devoted husband and friend. All who have known him will miss his independent character and booming laugh,” his family said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hakala was preceded in death by brothers, D. Robert and George.
He is survived by sisters, Nan Helena Saari of Superior, Wis., and Ilona Falk of Vancouver, Wash.; sister and brother-in-law, June and Gene Haugen of Sequim, Wash.; brothers, Edward Hakala of Anchorage and Merrill Hakala of Fairbanks; in-laws, Jean Hakala of Juneau, Giles Wesley of Ironwood, Eileen and Bill Laiti of Fairbanks and Bill and Norita Matara of Cottage Grove, Minn.; and numerous nephews, nieces and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be sent to one of the four John B. and Mae M. Hakala Scholarship funds they had endowed: University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula College, Michigan Technological University and Gogebic Community College. Condolences may be sent in care of his niece, Karen Hakala Knight, 36815 Hakala Lane, Soldotna, AK 99669.
Arrangements were made by Fairbanks Funeral Home.
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