John Michael Appleton, 1957-2021

John Michael Appleton (more commonly known as “Mike” or “Apple”) passed away December 18, 2021 in the home he built in Cordova, Alaska.

He was born in Madison, Wisconsin on March 7, 1957 to George Sanders Appleton Sr. and Betty Louise Appleton, joining siblings Diane and George.

Mike grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois. He was known for being intelligent, happy and mischievous, traits he carried with him through life. He spent much of his youth traveling throughout Europe with his family while his father worked as vice president for Abbott’s Agricultural and Veterinary Products Division.

Mike went to college for a year after high school but found he had an appetite for learning that only the open road could satiate. Having traveled extensively at a young age, he craved the unconventional and unknown, so he left for the open road.

He did some ranching in Montana, honed his diving skills in the Caymans, and then hitchhiked to Alaska. He landed a logging job in Juneau, and then took up odd jobs in Anchorage. He proudly attended the first and only Grateful Dead concert at West Highschool. After some time there, his buddy Mike Pullman told him about some great fishing in an off-the-beaten-path town. Mike headed down to Cordova, and there he stayed.

Mike worked on trails in Cordova and helped develop Pipeline Lake Trail. He lived at Hippy Cove, and he proudly served as the mayor of the Cove for a period of time. He worked at a sawmill at Cabin Lake, and put his diving skills to use doing the roe on kelp fishery. He participated in dive and long line fisheries throughout the mid 80s and 90s.


It was also during this time that he broke into the carpentry trade, thanks to his mentor Eric Ronnegard Sr. Mike fell in love with it; he found the physical labor satisfying but truly enjoyed all the mental challenges of constructing something. He was immensely proud of the things he built, for community members and friends he loved. Mike genuinely enjoyed going to work each day, and did so for many years with his trusty dog Bosco riding shotgun. He worked at the San Juan Hatchery, built a surimi plant in Dutch Harbor where he was well loved by the Japanese for his ability to procure urchins from the depths, helped build Peter Pan in Valdez, and had a hand in building or working on almost every structure in Cordova.

Mike met Cindy in Cordova in 1984. They married in 1989 and brought their three children into the world, who were his absolute pride and joy. He cleared and built their home on an acre of paradise out Whitshed. He was a hard worker, but enjoyed slowing down in his 60’s, playing croquet, listening to his tape collection in his yard and watching every western and sci-fi movie under the sun with his beloved pug. He built an apartment for himself over his shop, and eventually his eldest daughter moved into the home he built next door, where he spent almost every day visiting his grandson and children. COVID brought his two youngest home, and he said it was the best part of the pandemic.

Mike was a character, an old rock and roll hippy at heart. He was an exceptional story teller, had a dry, quick witted humor, and his recall for facts, figures, and history was impressive. The weirder the food, the better. He loved his family deeply, and was extremely sentimental. Talking about his mother would bring a light to his eyes and a quiver to his chin.

He is survived by his children, Kelsey Hayden (Cameron), Laura Appleton, John Appleton; two grandchildren, Declan and Lennon; the mother of his children, Cindy Appleton; his sister, Diane Reeves (Larry); his brother, George Appleton JR (Kristi); and many beloved nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his father, mother, and brother Peter.

When someone you love passes, it feels like time should stop. Oddly enough, time kept on moving. So, due to life and far-flung family, a Celebration of Life will be held June 10, 2023 in Cordova Alaska. We hope those who’ve known him the longest can venture back to celebrate him properly with us. If you have stories or photos to share, reach out to Kelsey, Laura or John. A family gathering will be held in Nashville, Tennessee at a family plot this winter.