Eugene Martin 'Gene' Effler


Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2004


  Eugene Martin 'Gene' Effler

Eugene Martin 'Gene' Effler

Longtime Alaska resident Eugene Martin "Gene" Effler died Monday, Oct. 18, 2004, at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, after a long battle with cancer. He was 80.

At Mr. Effler's request, no funeral will be held. However, a celebration of life will be held in Homer on July 4 at the family homestead, where his cremated ashes will be scattered near those of his wife, Mim.

Mr. Effler was born Nov. 24, 1923, in Washington, Mo. He graduated in 1942 from Washington High School and joined the military during World War II. He earned his wings as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944 and was assigned as flight gunnery and tactical instructor in single engine fighters. He later started an aerobatic team named the "Satan's Angels" giving air shows at air bases. In 1945, the team moved to Thunderbird Field and was renamed the Thunderbirds.

Once the war was over, Mr. Effler got out of the Army Air Corps and ferried aircraft around the United States, Mexico and Canada. He also instructed people how to fly and operated a cafeteria at Kratz Airport in St. Charles, Mo., with his Air Corps friend Roy "Skip" Utter. Mr. Effler met his future wife, Millie "Mim" Morrison when she came in for a meal.

After marrying Mim in Salome, Ariz., on July 4, 1947, the Efflers and Mr. Utter moved to Alaska to continue their love of flying and desire to see the "Last Frontier" and flew to Alaska in August 1947, when the huge wildfire known as the "Great Burn" was occurring on the Kenai Peninsula.

Mr. Effler worked at flying survey crews for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, occasionally landing on mountainsides and glaciers, as it was before the advent of helicopters. He also continued to teach flight instruction, worked as a big game guide and developed a 160-acre homestead on East Hill in Homer.

He began flying for Alaska Airlines in 1951 as a co-pilot, then as an airline captain for Cordova Airlines. Once Cordova Airlines merged with Alaska Airlines, he was an airline captain for Alaska Airlines until his retirement in 1978. After retirement, he became a helicopter pilot, fulfilling a lifelong goal. He continued to fly private aircraft and helicopters, accumulating 35,000 flying hours in his lifetime.

The Efflers moved to Anchorage in December 1950 and became co-owners of Effco Electronics in downtown Anchorage in 1957 with Mim's sister, Bookie, and her husband, Ray Cone. The Efflers also owned a king crab fishing boat in Kodiak named the "Widgeon II" and built and renovated rental apartments and houses with their family. They had real estate licenses, and Mr. Effler had a broker's license.

Mr. Effler enjoyed hunting big game and would take time off to hunt on the North American or African continents, gathering many hunting trophies. He also worked behind the scenes for 15 years championing the north-south runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and regarded its being built as one of the best air safety works of enduring significance he could have been involved in, his family said.

After he retired, the Efflers spent their winters in Oregon at their filbert farm, then sold it and bought an orange grove in Valley Center, Calif., where they stayed in the winter when not traveling. Summers were always spent in Homer on the homestead, which they subdivided into Bayview Gardens Subdivision. Mr. Effler could often be found sailing Kachemak Bay on his halibut fishing boat.

"He always felt he was born at the right time, at the right place, and that he lived a life considered 'the best of all worlds,'" his family said.

Mr. Effler was preceded in death by his wife on Jan. 22, 2003; parents, Blanche and Carl Effler; three sisters; two brothers; and two grandsons.

He is survived by daughters and sons-in-law, Linda and Brady Drummond of Wasilla, Carolyn and Bill Carfrae of Burien, Wash., and Sherri and Earl Houser of Anchorage; son and daughter-in-law, Roy and Crystal Effler of Wasilla; 11 grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren; and other relatives throughout the United States.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to a charity of choice. Condolences may be sent to Carolyn Carfrae, 2130 SW 122nd Place, Burien, WA 98146, or Tammy Lindemuth, 1210 F St., Anchorage, AK 99501.

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