Daniel Nelson Branch

DANIEL NELSON BRANCH, age 70, died peacefully on January 5, 2022, at his home in Juneau. It can be a cliché to say a man lived a full life, but Dan did that and more. He left an indelible mark on people across Alaska with his work as a state attorney, his passion as an artist & writer, and the quiet strength and listening ear he provided to many a friend and colleague.

Dan was born April 20, 1951, in Burbank, California, the son of Graydon Branch and Bernice (Whalen) Branch. He was an alumnus of Verdugo Hills High School, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco Law School.

Dan moved to Alaska in 1976 to serve as a VISTA volunteer in Bethel, providing free legal services to locals. What he expected to be an interesting year’s experience became a lifelong love of the 49th state and the people who call it home. Dan met his wife, Susan Oshida, in Bethel; they were together for 44 years.

Dan spent 13 years total on the Kuskokwim River (10 in Bethel and three in Aniak), before relocating to Southeast Alaska in 1989. He worked for the Attorney General’s Office in Ketchikan and then Juneau, retiring as a Senior Assistant Attorney General in 2013. His career highlights include many arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court, mentoring fellow attorneys, and (a begrudging highlight according to him) authoring an infamous legal opinion that declared it illegal for Alaskan charities to raise money by soliciting bets on rat races.

After retirement, Dan earned an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His essays, stories, and poetry, which often explored how Alaska’s harsh and beautiful environment shapes the lives lived within it, were published in well over a dozen publications across the world. Dan also served on the board of directors of 49 Writers and authored a long-running column in the Alaska Bar Association Rag.

Dan was diagnosed with glioblastoma in September 2020. It drove him to publish a collection of his works, which resulted in the book, Someday I’ll Miss This Place Too, published last year by Cirque Press. Dan completed it while undergoing cancer treatments, a testament to his passion and determination.

Dan’s service to the Juneau community included work as a volunteer chaplain at Bartlett Regional Hospital, a difficult calling for which he was exceptionally gifted. He was also an active member of his local parish and volunteered many hours at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As an artist, Dan developed his own unique style of wood carving and had pieces featured in art shows and exhibitions across Alaska. He was also humbled and honored to have been taught by Tlingit and Haida master carvers while living in Ketchikan and Juneau.

Finally, as a lover of photography and Southeast Alaska’s unmatched beauty, his observations and musings live on in over 2,400 posts on the Walking with Aki blog (https://kwethluk.net/).

Dan is survived by his wife, Susan; his daughter, Anna Branch, and her husband, Robert Montenegro; his sister, Mary Musgrove, and her husband Jack; many nieces, nephews, and cousins stretched across the country; and his loyal canine hiking companion, Aki.

Dan’s family would like to recognize and thank his many friends in the Juneau community who have been so warm and generous during the previous months. It is the perfect reflection of a life lived well that so many people came together to share in his love.

Dan will be interred at the Shrine of St. Therese. Per his wishes, there will not be a public funeral.

Celebrants of Dan’s extraordinary life are encouraged to make a donation to Juneau’s emergency shelter and soup kitchen, The Glory Hall, located at 8715 Teal Street and www.feedjuneau.org. His family encourages anyone who feels called to share memories of Dan to send these to jnubranch@gmail.com.