Richard Dean Hamlin flew into this world on November 17, 1935 smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression to a family of farmers that hailed from Montevideo, Minnesota. With no work to be had, he and his parents left Minnesota and worked their way west, down through the south, and up through California landing in Tacoma, Washington. While working in Tacoma, it was discovered that his father, Dean Hamlin, was good with numbers and was offered a bookkeeping position at West Coast Grocery in Alaska. That’s where our Dad’s Alaskan adventure began.
Dad was the most amazing mischief-maker as a child! Whether it was throwing snowballs at the occupants of the Governor’s mansion, or having BB gun wars out his bedroom window with his lifelong friend and neighbor Lyle Simpson on Water Street. Dad never had a boring day in his life!
Being the eternal optimist, Dad never said “never.” He always had a job to support his interests. Being the number one paper boy for the “Ketchikan Chronicle” as a young kid then later putting himself through college trolling for salmon out of an eighteen ft. cedar planked day cruiser. Dad would get up at midnight to catch the first bite by 2:00 a.m.
Dad’s passion for flying was unparalleled. He bought a plane before he owned a car! He first flew solo at the age of twenty, knew every square inch of Southeast Alaska and had hundreds of flying stories to prove it. Dad was always one of the first pilots to respond to an accident or a recovery. The amount of times he saved people’s lives was incredible. Not only did he love to fly, he loved to teach aviation and mathematics. Dad taught aviation and math for over thirty-five years and of his fifty plus years of flying, most were spent with the Fish and Game Department.
“I taught in the winter and flew in the summer and I would do it all over again.”
Those who knew him best would tell you, out of all the loves of his life, one stands out as the strongest and the greatest of all, his wife Pamela. They married in 1972, and he brought the other greatest person in our life back to the Last Frontier. Together they weathered the storms, raised us kids, and brought a love of life to even the rainiest of days.
Whether Dad was flying, teaching, beachcombing, log salvaging, trapping, story telling, or spending time with his family, his great love and passion for all he did and all he was always shined brightly.
Dad was preceded in death by his mother and father Fran and Dean Hamlin. He is survived by his brother Dave Hamlin, his wife of forty-nine years Pam, his three children, Ned (Rosanna), Penny (Ron), and Mindy (Andrew), his grandchildren, dozens of nieces and nephews, and the ten-thousand plus residents of Ketchikan.
Dad had a twinkle in his eye that will never die. We see it in every friend and stranger who goes out of their way to share how much he meant to them, how he saved their life or how he changed the trajectory of a student’s self-esteem and how he never forgot a face … a name maybe, but not a face.
There has never been a happier heart, a gentler man, or a more legendary story-teller. His influence was extensive, his love unconditional and his legacy lives on with every memory and every story.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at a later and safer time.