Paul Robert Emerson died on June 8 in his hometown of Juneau, Alaska. He was 89.
Emerson was born in 1914 in Boston, Mass., the youngest of three children. He left school in 11th grade to help support his mother, but he was a prolific reader and continued to educate himself.
He went to sea in 1936, sailing from Labrador, Canada, to Argentina in the merchant marine. He came ashore and took up carpentry in 1940. World War II sent him back to sea in February 1942, sailing in a convoy to run the German blockade and deliver munitions to Murmansk, Russia. He then joined the U.S. Navy where he trained salvage divers in underwater carpentry and seaman’s skills. He was awarded the Atlantic War Zone Bar and the Merchant Marine Combat Bar.
After the war he worked as a carpenter, and also as a correspondent for the Daily Worker newspaper. He and his first wife moved from the East Coast to Washington state in 1952. They moved to Seattle in 1958 where he assumed duties as editor for the northwest edition of the People’s World, a position he held for 10 years. (The Daily Worker and People’s World are predecessors of today’s People’s Weekly World.)
Emerson remarried in 1970 and took his new wife and stepchildren to live in Cuba, where he served as a correspondent and as an English-language editor for Radio Havana. They returned to Seattle where he worked in carpentry and union organizing until he moved to Juneau in 1976.
He lived in Juneau 28 years. He was active in many community organizations, including the Mountainview Tenants Council, the Carpenters Union, Gastineau Historical Society, and Juneau Common Ground. In Juneau he worked first as a carpenter, then with the weatherization program for Southeast Alaska Community Action Program, and finally tending plants in commercial buildings, hauling chlorine-free water from Gold Creek.
He was an avid hiker and activist in trail conservation with Juneau Trail Mix, SAGA, and Taku Conservation Society. He was a hiker and ski leader for Juneau Parks and Recreation, learned to ski at age 65, and hiked the Chilkoot Trail three times between ages 69 and 75. He co-authored the historical “Perseverance Trail Guide” and edited the book, “90 Short Walks Around Juneau.”
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Ruth Emerson; and his second wife, Marjorie H. Rabbitt, who died in Juneau in 1979.
Donations in Emerson’s memory can be made to Trail Mix, P.O. Box 35693, Juneau AK 99803; or KTOO Alternative Radio, 360 Egan Drive, Juneau AK 99801.