Harold Daubenspeck

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

Seattle resident and Alaska businessman Harold Daubenspeck died Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at his home after a long illness. He was 95.

A Catholic Mass and funeral services were held Wednesday, May 28, at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Seattle.

"He was known to many of his friends, family and colleagues as 'Dauby.' He began his association with Alaska as a Seattle teenager in the 1930s. He and some friends would find derelict boats in the Puget Sound area, repair them, then sail to Ketchikan where they would sell the boats," his family said. "He will be remembered warmly as someone who was successful, generous and happy in life. He donated the land on which now sits the Kenai Senior Citizens Center and much of Millennium Square to the city of Kenai when he retired from the fishing industry in the early 1980s.

Mr. Daubenspeck started to fish on his own out of Ketchikan to fund his college education.

World War II interrupted an education that was intended to lead to a career as a medical doctor. Mr. Daubenspeck was stationed in the Philippines where he skippered an Army Air Corps rescue boat. At the end of the war he helped restart the Philippine commercial fishing industry.

After the war he stayed in the commercial fishing business when he purchased a Prince William Sound fish trap. In 1949 he began his first venture into fish processing. He bought a small cannery near the mouth of the Kenai River and called the company Kenai Packers.

"He was an innovator of what is now the ubiquitous aluminum drift boat on Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay. Over time he built a seafood processing empire that included processing plants in Kenai, Cordova, Kodiak and Bristol Bay. He leased hundreds of aluminum drift boats to fishermen in Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay, and he owned a fleet of eight salmon tenders, six of which fished Bering Sea king crab during the winter months," his family said. "He was full of stories about fishermen and homesteaders from a bygone era in Kenai. Following the custom of the time, Harold gave many people their start in the fishing industry by financing their permits, boats and nets. Other than repayment of the loan, at relatively low interest rates, the only requirement was that the fisherman must sell their fish to him at going prices. He was made an honorary bishop in the Mormon Church one year when a large salmon run was due to arrive on a Sunday. The local Mormon community, not wanting to miss the run but otherwise not being allowed to work on Sunday, ordained him Bishop for the day so he could permit them to participate in the harvest."

Mr. Daubenspeck is survived by his wife of 60 years, Rita; daughter, Ann; and many extended family members.

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