John Edwin McClain

Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fairbanks resident John Edwin McClain, 83, died Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010, of complications from cancer.

A gathering of friends was held Sunday, Jan. 10, at his home.

Mr. McClain was born Feb. 13, 1927, in the geographical center of the Lower Forty-eight, Lebanon, Kan. After school he worked as a trucker and then joined the Army in 1944 serving during World War II. After his 1946 discharge he married Floretta Alice Badger in 1947 in Phillipsburg, Kan., and worked for the Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas Company in Kansas.

The family moved to Colorado and then Michigan in 1955 where John built houses with his brother. In 1956, the couple flipped a coin to decide whether to move to Alaska or California. California won and with three children they moved to southern California where John worked for the Escondido Sand and Gravel Company joining the Operating Engineers Union.

Alaska finally lured them north and in 1962 they moved to Soldotna, now with four children, where John worked in construction clearing seismograph lines, building airstrips in rural Alaska, roads and rebuilding the Homer Small Boat Harbor after the 1964 earthquake. In 1969 he formed J.E.M. Construction Company and continued building roads, such as the one to the Old Believer's village of Nikaevolsk, College Road to Kenai Peninsula College and Captain Cook State Park. In 1974 the couple began a family gold mining operation. They mined on Caribou Creek near Kantishna and later Manley Hot Springs, Faith Creek on the Steese highway, Ester and Circle until 2000. He won numerous mining awards including the first Reclamation of the Year Award in 1994 under Governor Walter Hickel.

"Once he came to Alaska, John McClain never wanted to live anywhere else. He loved having his family around him and operating his D-8 Cat," his family said.

The couple moved to Fairbanks in 2006 after spending many years dividing their time between summers there and winters in Soldotna.

Mr. McClain was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Weldaand Mabel Marie (Good) McClain; brother, Robert Eugene McClain; son, Jay Ryan McClain; and daughter-in-law, Michelle Kirby.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years; children, Patricia McClain (Pearse Tuite), Don E. McClain, Penny McClain (Alan Boraas),John L. McClain; and grandchildren, Dustin, Denver and Angel McClain, Ailis and Deaglan Vann, Eamonn and Ruairi Tuite, andJared, Beau, Blairand Mia McClain.

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