Roy H. Madsen
Roy Harding Madsen passed away on the morning of December 26, 2017 in his home. Roy was born at home in March 1923 in the village of Kanatak, Alaska. His father Charles Madsen had established a trading post there at the time, and his mother Mary (Metrokin) was a homemaker. Shortly after his birth, the Madsens moved to Mary’s hometown of Kodiak.
Roy was truly a figure larger than life. His career spanned from his early start in childhood, helping his father at the Madsen Bear Camp, as the “Head Man”. Ten-year-old Roy’s first job was to scrape the bear skulls clean for use in bear skin rugs and other trophies. It was a daunting task – using only a cauldron of boiling water heated over a wood fire and a pen-knife.
As a young man, Roy also worked as a guide with his father and as a stevedore. He served in the U.S. Navy during WW II as a gunner and navigator on a PT Boat in the South Pacific. After the War, Roy moved back to Kodiak for a time with his young family – his first wife Katharine (Walters) and their first daughter Elizabeth ‘Leza’. His daughter Mary Jane was born in Kodiak. Roy spent a couple of summers fishing in Bristol Bay on a double-ender sailboat to support his family.
The family moved to Oregon, where Roy finished his Bachelor’s degree and then entered law school at Northwestern College of Law (what is now Lewis and Clark College). After graduating from law school, Roy spent a number of years working as a law clerk and attorney in the Portland, Oregon area before returning again to Kodiak.
In the early 1960’s, in Kodiak, Roy established a private practice law firm. He was active in establishing the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) and served on it’s first board; and later worked in his capacity as an attorney to form Koniag, Inc., and was involved in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. In 1976, he began service as the first (and to date, only) Alaska Native Superior Court Judge. Upon his retirement from the Bench in 1991, Roy’s work did not end. He devoted many hours of service to the board of Saint Herman’s Seminary and was appointed to the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. He participated in “the Color of Justice” campaign, traveling to Sitka to address young people on Human Rights issues.
Roy’s aptitude as a public speaker and storyteller, along with his deep knowledge as an Elder ensured that he was a frequent speaker at any number of local events. Roy was the recipient of a number of honors including the Saint Herman’s Cross, bestowed upon him by Bishop Gregory Afonsky (in Blessed Memory) of Alaska and California. In more recent years, Kodiak’s court house was rededicated as the Honorable Roy H. Madsen Justice Center by the Alaska Bar Association. Earlier in December, 2017, Roy was named Elder of the
Year by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge for his dedication to their Kodiak Brown Bear program; and the University of Alaska bestowed upon him an honorary Doctorate of Humanities. In October, the documentary “ Magnetic North” was premiered in Kodiak which featured Roy’s life. The documentary will air on Alaska Public Television some time in the coming year, and was backed by the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska Humanities Forum.
Roy was equally comfortable in his robes on the court bench dispensing justice as he was in a flannel shirt and worn corduroys at the helm of his skiff, shuttling family to his small cabin on Woody Island or helping ferry pilgrims for the August St. Herman’s Pilgrimage to Monk’s Lagoon, or picking wild berries and mushrooms in the woods.
He was in his element with an audience – whether it be two or two hundred – sharing his stories of bear guiding, fishing, hunting and human nature. His deep bass voice could fill a room, and his easy smile and laughter were contagious.
Roy was manly enough to be a tender loving parent, to shed tears of joy and sorrow without shame, to render steady advice and to dispense his love and friendship to all who needed it.
He leaves a life-long dedication to his community. Roy’s boots – for indeed, deep boots they are – will not be filled by another. His absence will leave a poignant void – assuaged only by his great love for life and his Kodiak.
Roy was preceded in death by his parents Charles Madsen and Mary Metrokin Madsen; siblings Elizabeth “Leza” Madsen, Alf Madsen, Thelma Johnson, Rose Short, Alice McDonald, Raymond Madsen and Germaine Chester; his son Guy Madsen, and his former wife Katharine Madsen (Walters). He is survived by his loving wife of 36 years Linda L. Madsen; his children Elizabeth “Leza” Madsen (Fred James), Mary Jane Longrich (Tim), Charles Madsen (Laurene), Charlotte Lindstrom (Troy), and Jacqueline Madsen (Jennifer Swanberg); step-daughter Shannon Rodriguez (Jorge); nine grandchildren: Peter (Kelly), Nicholas and Michael Longrich; Elizabeth “Liz”, Scott and Charlie Madsen (Maggie); Alexei Kulgavchuk; “Deacon Herman” Roy C. Madsen (Erika Mary); Charles C. Pierce (Kate) and Katherine Joyce “Katie Jo” Vis (Zachary); step-grandchildren Genarro, Yesenia and Maria Elena Rodriguez; great-grandchildren Aiden Madeiros, and Kori and James Longrich; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and nephews and cousins. Roy is also survived by many friends, colleagues and loving members of the community of Kodiak – all of whom were considered an extension of his family.
A private family Panakhida and repast was held in his home in Kodiak. A community Celebration of Life will be held this summer in Kodiak