William “Billy” Hoogendorn, Sr.
William “Billy” Hoogendorn, Sr. has Nome roots stemming back to Nome’s Gold Rush. Louise Ross, daughter of an 1890s Nome hotelier Charles Ross, married Holland immigrant Dirk Hoogendorn and together began a homestead for mining along the Immachuck River, 26 miles south of Deering.
In September of 1921, Billy was born into a family of 11 children. The children were homeschooled and taught the importance of living off of the land: growing up on reindeer, fish and ptarmigan, as well as vegetables from their family garden. Following the death of his mother at the age of five, Billy and his siblings essentially raised one another. At age 11, Billy and his older sister Minnie were in charge one year of stocking up the family’s personal and dog team fish for the winter, putting away 11,000 salmon. Most siblings had their own dog teams to care for as mushing was their only means of transportation to hunt, trap and haul freight. Growing up on his father’s mine, Billy learned at a very early age how to run a Forsgen tractor and the inner workings of mining.
After leaving home, Billy worked various jobs on the Kougarok until he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He insisted on completing his Army time in Nome enlisted in the Infantry. Over the next three years and three months, Billy ran a tool shop for 2,100 carpenters, managed the powerhouse, and ultimately completed his military service as a mechanic, equipment operator fire inspector. He worked for USSR Mining Co. in Nome and for the Army Corps of Engineers, Billy cleared the Nome beach with a tractor and the following year he used his crane operating skills to place the boulders for Nome’s seawall.
Billy married Lena Iutok Brown in Nome, where they raised their children. He worked for Lomen Brothers (Alaska Steamship) running their machine shop and also worked as a port crane operator. He later purchased Arctic Sanitary Service. For the remainder of his working years, Billy returned to mining, his real passion.
Billy enjoyed spending time and sharing stories with his children, grandchildren and now and abundance of great-grandchildren. Although most of Billy’s siblings had left the Seward Peninsula as young adults to work in the Seattle area, Billy remained and has pioneered nearly a century of change and experiences in Alaska. A humble man, Billy has modeled hard work and love for family and community for future generations. He leaves behind a legacy of eight children, 16 grandchildren, 59 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-grandchildren.
He is preceded in death by his children Dolly, Nancy (Teener), Ruth Louise (Babe), Willie Jr., and Randy, wife Lena, parents, brothers Jimmy, Jack, Richard, Marvin, sisters Minnie, Gertrude, Louise, Dorothy and Anna.
He is survived by his older sister Gladys Fanning, his son Frank Greene of Kotzebue, son Homer Hoogendorn of Nome, daughter BettyAnn Hoogendorn of Nome and many grandchildren.