Jerry Barber Dies at 74; Lived in Sitka 31 Years

Jerry Barber

Jerry Barber came into this world 74 years ago in Mattoon, Illinois, and passed peacefully out of it on February 10, 2024, in Sitka.
Jerry was the second child and first son of Gail Barber and Elizabeth Wente Barber of Neoga, Illinois. His strong will was evidenced early in life: rearranging furniture with his head when he could only crawl, marching off into the cow pasture ignoring his mother’s calls to stop, at age 2. She even had his hearing tested, but Jerry said it was because he knew she didn’t like cows and wouldn’t follow him.
He learned to love the outdoors at a young age while growing up with his five siblings on the family farm. Days of riding horses, fishing on the banks of Bush Creek, and playing in the woods instilled in him a lifelong passion for nature.
Jerry was a natural on the farm. He acquired his work ethic early as boy-sized chores were just as important as man-sized ones. Jerry worked next to his father and grandfather as a child, driving the machinery, caring for livestock and developing his carpentry skills.
Jerry said his father’s advice was “Do your best and walk away proud,” and Jerry followed that advice all the way to the end.
Jerry was an honor student at Neoga High School and attended the University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971 as a supply clerk in Germany, where he added skiing to his outdoor activities. He claimed that being a fast and accurate typist set him safely behind a desk instead of in Vietnam.
After the Army and college, Jerry started to head west. Idaho in the mid 1970s provided exactly what he wanted at the time. He embraced white water on the Salmon River, hunted for elk and honed his carpentry skills.
After a decade of those happy, hippie days Jerry left Idaho and moved to Seattle. He worked as an independent contract carpenter and discovered his greatest passion: salt water salmon fishing. After eight years in the big city he was ready for another change and headed for Alaska, possibly seeking to fulfill an early aspiration of becoming a hermit when he grew up and definitely seeking greater hunting and fishing opportunities.
By 1992 Jerry arrived in Sitka with a van full of tools. The first night he was offered a carpentry job by a guy in the bar, who told Jerry to be ready to start the next day. Jerry said no, he’d start in three days. He’d come to Sitka to fish and that was the first thing he was going to do. He got his fishing in and started Monday, for the first of many carpentry jobs he held over the next 30 years.
Jerry also worked for Kingfisher Charters for 10 years beginning in the mid 1990s.
He earned the reputation of Good Skipper. He was highly regarded by the other captains and clients. A number of his customers returned each year and would request him.
Jerry was an active member of the Fish and Game Advisory Committee. He represented various groups on the committee – subsistence, charter fishing and sports fishing. Jerry could be counted on to be well prepared for the meetings. He educated himself on the needs, challenges and changes of each management group, looking at the big picture of resource management rather than focusing on one group.
Jerry took part in a great variety of hunting and fishing opportunities in the Sitka area.
In 2009 Jerry’s life took another turn when he accepted an invitation to the Sitka Stardust Ball with Marg. Parsons. For the next 15 years they were partners in life and on many carpentry jobs. Together they designed and built a house and garage for Marg. – a standing and lasting testimony of Jerry’s skill, creativity and love.
Although Jerry lived in Sitka for so long, he kept in close touch with his family back in Illinois and Idaho. He was delighted when family members, especially the younger generation, came to visit. A successful fishing trip was always guaranteed.
COPD finally caught up with Jerry and in 2022 he moved into the Sitka Pioneers Home for the remainder of his Alaskan life.
Jerry is survived by his loving partner, Marg. in Sitka; daughter Colleen Barber and sisters Sue Ramage, Julie Holtkamp, Melissa Kelly, and Mary Reynolds, all of Illinois; his brother Steve Barber in Idaho; and numerous nieces and nephews.
At Jerry’s request, no memorial is planned in Sitka. However, it is hoped that the next time you are walking silently through the woods, or out in the Sound dropping a line in the water, or simply breathing clean fresh air pause for a moment to think of Jerry, his friendship, his talents and skills and especially how wonderful it was that he lived and died in a community that fit him perfectly.
Memorial contributions can be made to Sitka’s end-of-life care group, Brave Heart Volunteers P.O. Box 6336 Sitka AK 99835 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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