Frederick W. 'Bill' Dornberger


Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2006


  Frederick W. 'Bill' Dornberger

Frederick W. 'Bill' Dornberger

Soldotna resident Frederick W. “Bill” Dornberger died Tuesday, May 2, 2006 at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna from pulmonary fibrosis and a heart condition. He was 79.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 13 at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. A buffet will follow.

Mr. Dornberger was born July 17, 1926 in Los Angeles. He left school when he was 16 to work in the naval shipyards in Los Angeles during World War II. He enlisted with the U.S. Navy on May 12, 1944, serving during the war. He was honorably discharged on Feb. 21, 1945. After his discharge, he finished high school and attended college at the University of Southern California. While he was in college, he worked in a hospital, sold cars then bought a used car dealership. He and his first wife, Gloria, who was an aspiring actress, helped in his becoming a double for John Wayne for a short time.

While in California, he worked as a guard in the L.A. County Jail, joined the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and owned a motel in Quincy, Calif. He bought a furniture and upholstery store in Reno, Nev., took classes at the University of Nevada at Reno and later became a probation officer mentoring teenagers.

Mr. Dornberger’s uncle taught him to fly airplanes as a teenager and he owned several small airplanes through the years. He was twice president of the Reno Areo-Squadron, which performed air rescues around the Reno area.

He and his first wife, Gloria, divorced in 1978, and he came to Alaska to fly fish in Bristol Bay in 1980 and bought a setnet site in 1983.

In 1984, he moved to Alaska and married Gloria Malotte of Soldotna and became a fish buyer in Bristol Bay, Nenana and at the Yukon River Bridge. They started the Eagle Smokehouse in 1988 near Soldotna. In 1990, they started processing fish for tourists.

Mr. Dornberger was a member of the California Tip Toppers Club, whose requirements were that women were at least 6 feet tall and men were 6 feet 5 inches tall. He was raised Catholic and attained the 4th Degree in the Knights of Columbus. He also volunteered at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center and enjoyed visiting with all the seniors while having lunch there.

“He enjoyed talking with people from all walks of life and loved to argue, even taking the opposite side of what he believed just for the sake of the argument,’ his family wrote. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and could tell at least one joke about any subject you could name. He loved music and sang with church choirs as a young man, and for a short time, with the Roger Wagner Choir. While at a party during the time he was a double for John Wayne, someone turned him around and held him against the wall, looked him up and down and said, ‘By golly, I do look like you.’ That being John Wayne. Bill also played cribbage with Harry Truman, when he was a deputy, and the president said he was a terrible player, but how can you beat the president?

“Bill did a lot of jobs just to get the information, such as, to drive a cable car and to be a steam engineer.”

Mr. Dornberger was preceded in death by his parents, Frederick and Alice; daughters, Linda Marie and Heidi Marie; son, Eric; and his ex-wife, Gloria.

He is survived by his wife, Gloria; stepchildren, Laurie Malotte and husband, Kevin Henehan of Stanley, N.Y.; Brian Malotte of Bristol Valley, N.Y.; and grandsons, Cody and Michael Henehan.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai.

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