Story last updated at 8:34 PM on Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Obituary James V. Arness

Longtime North Kenai resident James V. Arness, 84, passed away quietly in the arms of his beloved wife Peggy on Feb. 22, 2006, at the Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna. A memorial service was held Feb. 27, 2006, at the Kenai Merit Inn.

Mr. Arness was born in Seattle in 1922. As a child he was fascinated by the ocean-going freighters and ships harbored along the bay where he and his nine brothers and sisters often played. His love of the sea began when he became the proud owner of a little red skiff that he and his brothers fixed up to row around the bay. From that point on, everything in his life revolved around the oceans and waterways in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1942, during World War II, he left high school to join the U.S. Army and was stationed in Seward where he spent his first winter running a supply skiff in Resurrection Bay. His knowledge of boats and navigation was soon realized, and it wasn’t long before he captained a power barge traveling from Seward to Cold Bay and out to the tip of the Aleutians.

On one of these trips through the Aleutians, he landed his barge on the shores of Unga Island and met a beautiful red-headed school teacher, Peggy Petersen, who would later become his wife. In 1945, they married and eventually moved to the Kenai Peninsula where they homesteaded their current property in North Kenai.

Mr. Arness’s career continued to revolve around the water. Between 1946-1947, he ran a supply boat from Anchorage to Kodiak, making all of the Cook Inlet stops along the way. He was one of the first salmon drifters in the Cook Inlet region in the late ’40s.

In 1947, their first son, James Allan, was born and in 1951 their second son, Joseph Conrad was born. As a father, Mr. Arness wanted to make sure his sons had as many opportunities as possible. He bulldozed land, built softball fields, and helped start Kenai Little League. Clearing more land, he built a go-cart track so the boys and their friends could race. In the early ’50s he started a Cub Scout Troop, and in 1968 he secured uniforms and bleachers for the current Kenai Central High School football field so his son Joe could be a part of the first KCHS football team.

Before one project got done, Mr. Arness was already thinking of a new one. In the early ’60s, he recognized the need for a dock on Cook Inlet. An inventor at heart, Mr. Arness began what is known as Arnessification, a process of making something out of nothing. He later sunk three U.S. WWII Liberty ships to enlarge the dock thatbecame known as Arness Terminal, the major supply route for the oil companies operating offshore

In the early ’70s, he opened the first Ski-Doo snowmachine dealership on the Kenai Peninsula, started races, and eventually took the machines by helicopter to Harding Ice Field where people could rent and ride them.

Mr. Arness served the community in other aspects as well:  the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and president of the Kenai Civic League, the first governing body of the City of Kenai. During his tenure on the borough assembly, Mr. Arness established the service area and originated the plan to build the Nikiski Pool, personally working on its construction.

In 1982, at the age of 60 when most other people retire, Mr. Arness turned to yet another career, commercial set netting at the mouth of the Kasilof River where he fished with his son until 2004. Not one to ever turn down a chance to be on a boat, Mr. Arness commercial fished for halibut during the last season on Resurrection Bay with his close friend Tom Tomrdle.

His family and friends will always remember him as an honest and unpretentious self-made man who loved to tell stories, recite poetry, and to make people laugh with his jokes and famous one liner’s such as “Wait ’til the wind shifts” and “Later.”

Mr. Arness is survived by his wife of 60 years, Peggy; son, James and daughter-in-law, Dorothy; son Joe; granddaughters, Jessica and Rebecca and their mother, Barbara; granddaughters, Jennifer and Melissa and their mother, Lila; grandsons, James and Jake and their mother Mary and Jake’s wife Rebecca; great-grandson, Aiden; and a sister, Joan McDaniel of Seattle.

Donations in memory of Mr. Arness may be made to the Nikiski Fire Department or the Central Peninsula General Hospital Emergency Room.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.

Information about fire, police and troopers is taken from public records consisting of logbooks and press releases.