Claude ‘Gus’ Bell Dies; Former Sitkan was 66

Claude A. “Gus” Bell

Former Sitka resident Claude A. “Gus” Bell passed away Dec. 7, 2023, in Slickville, Pennsylvania. Gus had lived in Sitka from the early 1990’s until he moved to Slickville to be closer to his sister and old friends in the spring of 2017. 
Gus was born June 26, 1957, in Slickville to August Claude Bell and Anna Marie Bell. He graduated from Greensburg High School and later from Westmoreland Community College. In 1978, after graduation, he moved with his parents to Deming, New Mexico, when his parents decided to retire in the high desert country there. He enjoyed rock hounding there, as well as hunting.
In the early 1990’s, he came to Sitka for a summer to deckhand for Phil Riggs on the F/V Chuck-A-Nan, and stayed over 25 years until he moved in 2017.
Besides being a deckhand on the troller during the summer, Gus worked many jobs during the off season in Sitka – at Lakeside, TSA, Schmolk, and Sea Mart.
Gus had a beautiful voice and traveled one season with a group performing around the United States.
He loved to hunt, and was always excited for deer hunting season to open in August. He also liked to travel, sometimes to visit family in Pennsylvania or in New Mexico, but also to places like Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
He had an incredible sports card collection, and enjoyed buying and trading with many avid collectors in Sitka. In addition, he had a keen mind for remembering the stats of the players on the cards.  He also had a great interest in professional sports, and was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Gus was known in Sitka as a kind and generous person, and had many friends who have good memories of time spent together. He was a member of the Sitka Assembly of God church.
Gus was preceded in death by a baby sister, Karen Bell, by both his parents, and by an older brother, who was named after his dad, but was called “Buddy.” He was also preceded in death by a favorite aunt, Aunt Helen, with whom he lived when he returned to Pennsylvania to attend Westmoreland Community College. He also was preceded in death by Phil Riggs, whom he called “my friend and heartfelt brother.”
He is survived by two sisters, Helen Krol (Richard) of Deming, New Mexico, and Anna Marie Byerly of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, who opened her home to Gus when he first moved back to Pennsylvania to go to college.
He is also survived by his adopted family in Sitka that he lived with until 2017,  the Riggses – Sue, Rich Riggs (Nicole) and Julie Wakley (Kevin), and Rich’s and Julie’s children.
He also leaves numerous Sitkan friends, and the many friends he reconnected with in Slickville, after he returned to live there. They did a lot with Gus and for Gus, and Gus appreciated their support and friendships.
A celebration of  his life is planned in the near future in Slickville.

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July 2004 

Homes for sale: Stunning view, 4 bdrms., 3 baths, master suite,hardwood-laminate floors, new appliances $369,000; Three-level family home, apt. 3 bdrms., 2 kitchens, 13/4 baths, $232,000.


July 1974

    Lee Salisbury, speech and theater arts professor at the University of Alaska, will be drama instructor for grades 7-12 at the Regional Fine Arts Camp. The camp is sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Regional Arts Council and is held on the Sheldon Jackson College campus. Jim Hope is camp director.


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