Former longtime Cordovan Ken Van Brocklin passed away in 1000 Palms, California on February 3, 2018. He was 91 years old.
Van Brocklin was born and raised in Port Angeles, Washington, and graduated from high school there. In 1944, he was beckoned north to Alaska by his brother Don, who was serving aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Haida, stationed in Cordova.
Kenny, as he was known to all his friends, had a gregarious outgoing nature, and worked at various jobs well suited to his character, including the People’s Market and Cordova Commercial, before partnering with his brother Don and friend Jake Tyseling to purchase the Club Bar, Cafe & Liquor Store in 1957.
In 1962, he, Don and Bill Sherman opened the Club Bowling Alley, which became hugely popular, with hundreds of bowlers, five leagues and tournaments that attracted bowlers from all over Alaska. Countless young Cordovans learned how to roll strikes under Van Brocklin’s tutelage, and for several years CHS had a bowling team that competed around the state.
Van Brocklin was active in local affairs, serving on the school board, including as its president; volunteering with the Cordova Fire Department; and helping start the Cordova Iceworm Festival. Van Brocklin was a 70-year life member of the Elks Lodge, and two-time Exalted Rule of the Cordova Lodge.
A marvelous story-teller, one of his favorites was about the 1946 adventures he and a friend had driving south over the rugged ALCAN highway in a Model A Ford Truck soon after it was opened to public access following the end of World War II.
In 1947, Kenny married Barbara Widen, a nurse from Port Angeles; and they raised three children, Bobby, Pamela and Bruce, in a small happy home on Railroad Row. They loved being with friends and had many great times down Eyak River at a place called the Boxcar. The famous duck cabin was actually a railroad car from the abandoned Copper River & Northwestern Railway that had been barged down and plopped on a slough bank soon after the railroad shut down in 1938.
In the early ’80s, Kenny sold his interest in the Club. He and Barbara moved to the warmer desert climes of 1000 Palms, California, where Kenny became a very successful realtor and avid golfer. He twice served as president of Tri-Palms Golf Club and scored three hole-in-ones on the course which ran right past their home.
Van Brocklin was preceded in death by his wife Barbara and sons Bobby and Bruce. Survivors including his second wife Helen, daughter Pamela Klempel of Camano Island, Wa.; daughter-in-law Jeanna Van Brocklin; and grandchildren and their spouses Tyler Van Brocklin of Boise, Id., Alexis and Mitchel Lepschat of Anchorage, Ak., Taylor and Ashley Klempel of Camano Is., Wa., Kelly and Lindsay Klempel of Camano Is., Wa., and Kenna and Lee Stoops of Hailey., Id.
Nephews Pat Van Brocklin and Randy Bruce, along with Randy’s wife Jackie, spent countless special moments with Kenny in the past year.
“We watched a lot of Gunsmoke on TV and told a ton of good stories,” Bruce said. “No one could tell a tale like Kenny, nor forget his trademark laugh.”
Van Brocklin’s ashes will be scattered near his beloved Boxcar late this summer.