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Small Alaska communities are the state's backbone. Economically, if they're strong, then so, too, is Alaska.

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Shane Raymond Sooter, 59, died Oct. 24, 2014, in Ketchikan.
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Mary C. Smith, 93, died Oct. 19, 2014, in Ketchikan.
6/3/2014
Val Gene Strassel

Val Gene Strassel, 54, died May 23, 2104, in Temecula, California, after a long illness.

He was born Sept. 9, 1959, to Harriet and Leroy Bohuslov in Salt Lake City. The family moved to Alaska, where Leroy Bohuslov served with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Protection. After Bohuslov died in a plane crash, Harriet married Richard Strassel of Ketchikan, who adopted Val.

Val Strassel graduated from Bethel High School. He spent time in Southern California, traveling frequently to Alaska for work.

He married Candy Maisey on June 1, 1985, in Hawaii. Their only child, Jennifer Strassel, was born on June 21, 1987, while her mother was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

The family returned to Southern California, then moved to Ketchikan in September 1995.

A general contractor, Mr.?Strassel worked with several construction companies, and served as McGraw Construction’s superintendent on the Ketchikan Indian Community building project on Tongass Avenue.

Mr. Strassel was an artist and had carved an eagle panel for his mother and a chief’s cane for Manuel Hamilton of the Cahuilla Indian Reservation. He was a brown belt in Seibukan Karate.

He participated in the raising of several totem poles in the community. He was adopted into the Tlingit Eagle Clan by Joseph Franks, and donated a brown bear hide to the Brown Bear Clan of the Tongass Tribe.

He was an expert ax-thrower, and enjoyed hunting and fishing. In 2002, Mr. Strassel won the Ketchikan King Salmon Derby with a 53.2-pound king salmon.

In 2009, Mr. Strassel moved to the Costo Ranch at Aguanga, California, where he carved and chopped wood, and collected military memorabilia and rocks.

He served as a deacon at the Lutheran Church in Bermuda Dunes, California, and was active in AA.

“He loved the wilderness, God, hard work, family and his community,” his daughter writes. “He told great stories and helped others whenever possible. Val was a respected leader, teacher husband and father.”

Mr. Strassel is survived by his daughter, Jennifer Strassel; grandson, Gauge Logston; mother, Harriett Costo; step-father, Richard Strassel; half-brothers, Doug McGiffin of Idaho, Tom McGiffin of California, Kurt Strassel of California, David Smiley of Ketchikan; half-sisters, Maureen Owen of California, Julie Thompson of Washington and Carol Kelly of California; ex-wife, Carol Maisey; and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life will be planned later this year.

Mr. Strassel’s remains were cremated. His daughter will spread the ashes at Dahl Head and Mountain Point.

Donations may be made in care of Jennifer Strassel, P.O. Box. 9583, Ketchikan, AK 99901.