Anchorage 28.0 °F
Fairbanks 7.0 °F
Juneau 35.0 °F
Kenneth Dean Oldham, 81, pioneering bush pilot, big game guide, commercial fisherman, loving father and husband, died Jan. 21, 2008, surrounded by his family at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
A celebration of life ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Spenard Room at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel.
Ken was born April 15, 1926, to Carroll Langley Oldham and Vela "Vicki" Morris Wicks Oldham in St. Louis. He was the second son in a family of eight children: Rick, Marilyn, "Bud" Warner Oldham, Jack Nelson, Jerry Nelson, Jimmy Nelson and David Nelson. The family moved from Tennessee to Heber City, Utah, in the early 1930s and then to Washington state.
In 1940, at age 14, Ken joined the Merchant Marines and served in the Pacific Theater on a supply transport carrier that served Guam and the Philippines. After the war, he worked as ship's steward on several passenger ships that traveled back and forth between Alaska and Seattle. He was a part of the rescue efforts to save passengers on the MV Denali Northwest Passage. During this time, he developed his dream of moving to Alaska, starting a business and raising his family there.
In 1945, Ken married Lorraine Oldham in Seattle. He learned the construction trade, becoming a journeyman carpenter, while working on the Hanford Nuclear Plant. At this same time, he obtained his pilot's license in Pasco, Wash. He was a member of Carpenter's Union 1320. He and Lorraine moved the family up the Alaska Highway in 1949. He worked repairing and establishing bridges on the early roads of Alaska and as a journeyman carpenter, often taking his young family with him for the adventure. He earned his commercial pilot's license and instrument rating, and became a flight instructor at Merrill Field. He was a member of the Masonic Order.
Ken loved the challenges, adventure and friendship that life in territorial Alaska brought. He thrived on the challenges of flying in the Arctic, Alaska Range and Wrangell Mountains. He flew petroleum geologists across the North Slope and built armories at Togiak and Barter Island using his building skills and his ability to fly in difficult conditions. He became a registered hunting guide in 1959 and focused his energies establishing a lodge in the Alaska Range on property he had homesteaded.
In 1960, he married Mary Herlihey Oldham and moved to High Lake Hunting Lodge, which he built on the upper Susitna River. The lodge served as the primary camp for an international guiding and outfitting business that spanned Alaska, from the shores of Siberia to the Wrangell Mountains, and to the estuaries of the Alaska Peninsula. He respected the local knowledge and survival skills that the Native people of each area shared with him. He had a strong admiration for the beauty of the Alaska wilderness and the people who lived there, which he shared with his family and clients.
In the late 1960s, he started filming wildlife, hunting expeditions and Native ways of life in his spare time. In 1974, he built a commercial fishing camp and obtained commercial fishing permits for his family who setnetted and driftnetted, based out of the village of Egegik.
In 1993, he retired to live in the Philippines, where he had been spending his vacations since the 1970s. He greatly enjoyed his life and the Filipino people, traveling extensively throughout Southeast Asia. In 1996, he married Evelinda Abubo Oldham. In 2003, he moved back to Anchorage to be closer to family and advanced medical care.
Ken is survived by his wife, Evelinda; his brother, Jerry Nelson; children, Diana Oldham of California, Gabriella McDonald of Washington, Cynthia and Vito Castagnola of California, Jean Oldham of Palmer, Kellie Blue of Homer, Dr. Ken and Imelda Oldham of Anchorage, Kris and Connie Oldham of Anchorage, Russel Oldham of Anchorage, and Leslie Ann Oldham of Anchorage; grandchildren, Kristina Star, Deborah Hagen, Mynon Gregory, Moriah Joy, Justice Lanman, Ben Blue, Kris Oldham, Matthew and Mike Moffett; and numerous great-grandchildren
Tonight on Your Alaska Link