James Riley Whitcomb

Posted: Friday, April 06, 2001

Soldotna resident James Riley Whitcomb died Monday, April 2, 2001, at the Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna. He was 74.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday at the Kenai Christian Church at 4:30 p.m. Ministers Robert DeVolld and David Higginbothan will officiate.

Mr. Whitcomb was born in Quinlan, Okla., on Aug. 19, 1926, on the homestead of parents Jesse and Lydia Whitcomb. He attended high school in Mooreland, Okla., before joining the Army during World War II. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 10, 1946 attaining the rank of corporal.

After the service he worked at Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kan. It was during this time that he met and married his wife, Betty, a medical technologist. In April 1959, he and Betty came to Alaska to pursue their dream of homesteading.

They settled on the Kenai Peninsula near Funny River Road, where they built a home and raised their daughter Rebecca. Jim's nephew Orville later joined the family. During the 1960s he worked various construction jobs, including surveying the highway from Soldotna to Homer, construction of the Funny River Bridge and laying pipe in Cook Inlet. He retired from Amoco Oil Company, where he worked as an on-shore operator.

"Jim was extremely proud to have come from a homestead in Oklahoma and continue that family heritage here in Alaska. Although he worked construction and in the oil industry, he really loved the land and was proud to be a farmer at heart," the family said.

He was a longtime member of the Kenai Christian Church, past president of the American Legion, and an active supporter of the Soldotna Senior Center. He enjoyed hunting, pool, playing cards, and spending time with his grandson Stephen, with whom he shared a love of sports.

On March 11 of this year, he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Betty, by his side, along with more than 40 family members and friends.

"Family, friends and faith were what Jim valued most, and he felt particularly blessed that day," the family said.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse and Lydia Whitcomb; nephew, Orville Whitcomb; brothers Glenn, Wayne, Denzil, Gorden, Keith and Tommy Whitcomb; sister, Maude Lockhart; and half-brother, George Bennett.

He is survived his wife, Betty of Soldotna; daughter, Rebecca Cronkhite and grandson Stephan Cronkhite of Kenai; sister, Oletta Morris; brother, Harold Whitcomb, of Oklahoma; sisters-in-law and their husbands Barbara and Robert Doan, of Wichita, Kan., and Jacqueline and Richard Brazill, of Towanda, Kan.; and many nieces, nephews and friends, including special family, Gary and Mary Horvath, their daughters Melissa, Courtney, Julianne, and Amy of Funny River.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Soldotna Senior Center, 197 Park Street, Soldotna, AK 99669.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.

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