Paul G. Arvin, Longtime Sitka Resident, Dies at 85

Paul Gilbert Arvin

Paul Gilbert Arvin, a member of the community since moving here in 1963, passed away Jan. 15, 2021, at the age of 85.

He was born Sept. 11, 1935, in Jamaica, Long Island, New York.  His father, Earl Francis Arvin had been discharged from the U.S. Navy at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and it was in Brooklyn that he met and in 1929 married professional secretary and seamstress Lillian Olsen. The couple was blessed with the birth of daughter Carol in 1931, and son Paul Gilbert Arvin in 1935. Paul’s middle name came from Earl’s brother Gilbert, who was killed in action in France during World War I.

The family moved shortly thereafter to Camden, New Jersey, before moving cross country to settle in El Monte, California. Paul graduated from Rosemead High School with a passion for math and sciences. Early years of cars were augmented in Paul’s fascination with trucks. He learned from a neighbor who was a truck driver how to drive a semi-truck and trailer before he learned to drive a car. Besides his favorite freightliner, Paul worked for several years driving a cement truck.

Paul married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Fenton, in Yuma, Arizona, in May 1954, and they were blessed by the birth of Roy in San Gabriel, California, and Stephen in Covina, California.

The summer heat and humidity always bothered Paul (he would later find he had sweat glands over only 20% of his body). So in 1957 a move was made to Edmonds, Washington, where Paul gained employment with Boeing, as an electrician. Also in 1957, the couple was blessed by the birth of Thomas in Ballard, Washington.

Paul’s pride and joy was a 1957 Chevy Bel Air baby blue car with white hardtop that was awesome – or was until the boys drove it in reverse down the driveway, across the street and lawn into the neighbor’s kitchen.

After years of personal research, Paul decided the most temperate place to live was in the Rain Forest of Southeast Alaska. In 1963 the family took a flight on a Pan Am 707 from Seattle to Metlakatla, where they changed planes to an Alaska Coastal Ellis PBY, which then still landed in the water and pulled up on the “turn-around” ramp at Katlian Street and Halibut Point Road. The site’s now a skate park. The PBYs were the same planes that were stationed at the U.S. Naval Operating Base on Japonski Island during World War II. Paul was fascinated by aircraft and could give you the “N” numbers of all the B727-100, 200 and combi aircraft that Alaska Airlines flew in those early years. 

Paul gained employment at radio station KSEW as an engineer and announcer, and the affiliated Presbyterian Church gained a sound system operator at the same time.

One of the most repeated words of advice was a quote from the late Rev. Gavin of the Presbyterian Church, “When God closes a door, He always opens another.”

When the door closed for KSEW, Paul began working on electronics at Totem Electric. His work on radios took him out to logging camps and aboard fishing boats and tugs to do repairs. Eventually, he would be employed as a security guard at Alaska Lumber and Pulp, moving into the role of shift foreman in the finishing room by the time ALP closed in 1993. At the closure, a drawing was held for two Alaska Airlines tickets, and Paul won. He was thrilled as he was a big fan of planes. 

Paul was also treasurer of ALPERA, the employees recreational association. He was responsible for collecting the money from vending machines and taking it to the bank, which meant, his children said, that on Saturday mornings they would be around the kitchen table helping sort out hundreds of coins before taking them to the bank. This money was used for the annual ALPERA Picnic.

Paul also was a lieutenant in the Rescue Division of Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, serving the community with the Ambulance Service. He also taught EMT, which would later serve him at the Sitka Police Department as a 911 dispatcher. And in the early 1970s he was a Reserve Police Officer.

Paul was a Sitka Community Hospital Board member, serving as chairman in 1977-1984, and taking a large  role in the rebuilding of the hospital. 

Paul met and married Faye Richter, and their combined children now included Ronald, Shirlene, Bonnie, Ronda, Thomas, Teresa, Stephen and Roy. They would be blessed by the birth of Jennifer in 1969.

Paul loved being able to talk   in Morse Code to other ham radio operators around the world. He first became a licensed ham radio operator in June 1959, and in the 1970s he had a complete “ham shack” with assembled Heath Kits. An inverted V antenna on a large cedar pole was first installed at his Observatory Street Home and in 1974 Paul would raise a 50-foot Rohn Sectional Tower,4 Element Horizontal Beam Antenna.

On KL7FBU, Paul could raise and talk to his father in Crescent City on the Northern California Coast. At the time of  his passing, he was still active in the local Amateur Radio Club SHARK – Sitka Ham Amateur Radio Klub. One of Paul’s great joys was getting his Amateur Extra Class Ham Radio Operator License in February 2018, Paul’s call sign didn’t change by this, but as a Ham he was able to randomly look for a Vanity call sign, done by computer. To his surprise, KL7PA came up. He was very pleased.

His Dad, Earl, was a very successful Sunday School teacher, which drew Paul to a deep walk with the Lord. With all those children, he was inspired to bring them to the Church of the Nazarene for a Sunday School attendance contest. He never left.

He is survived by all his children and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

“As God closed the door to his earthly life, God opened the door to his Eternal Home.”

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May 2004

Sitka High sophomore Dianne Chong was named Athlete of the Meet at the Region V track and field championships in Juneau, as she won the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter IM hurdles. Other Wolves winners were Joy Ribao, Megan Lehmann, Greg Hunter and Kyle Ainslie.


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