Long-time Kodiak processor Jim Major died peacefully at home on Jan. 10, 2021. Mr. Major managed Eastpoint processing plant in Kodiak for many years and spent the rest of his fisheries career as assistant manager and, later, purchasing agent for Alaska Pacific Seafood.
Mr. Major was born on Nov. 16, 1933, to Jesse Frank Major and Wilma Jean Price Major in Seligman, Missouri. He grew up learning responsibility and the ethic of hard work on the family farm. He missed a lot of school because he helped his grandfather sell molasses. The family moved to New Mexico when Jim was 6 years old. Eventually, the family moved to South Bend, Washington, where Jim worked on an oyster farm.
While in Washington, Jim came into contact with Erling Bendiksen, who would later become his boss. Shortly after graduating from high school, Mr. Major served in the United States Navy. He was stationed in Japan and met actor Mickey Rooney, who was filming the movie “The Bridges at Toko-Ri.” Jim had a photo of him and Rooney to prove his story.
Mr. Major first came to Alaska in 1957, spending two months in Ouzinkie where he worked for Bendiksen, who had made a deal with Grimes Packing Company. According to the agreement, if Bendiksen supplied the tenders, he could have part of Grimes’ crab production. Mr. Major’s job was to act as an advisor in the canning operations.
The following year, Mr. Major became the manager for the Eastpoint processing plant in Seward. While in Seward, Mr. Major met Sharon Horton, whom he later married. The Majors moved to Kodiak in 1962 for new business ventures Mr. Major worked in a 3,000-square-foot section of the King Crab processing plant on Marine Way, which Bendiksen had leased.
Eastpoint remained in the king crab building until early 1968 when the company leased a portion of the Alaska Ice and Cold Storage. The company was forced to look for space elsewhere when the owners of Cold Storage sold the building to two business partners who were trying to get into the lucrative shrimp fishery. Land became available for Eastpoint when Bob and Helen Hall agreed to sell property to Bendiksen on the Near Island Channel. The land had been site of the Halls’ flying service, Kodiak Airways, which was moved next to the property now occupied by Alaska Fresh Seafoods.
Within two and a half years, the new Eastpoint plant was built. In 1995, the Eastpoint plant closed down. Mr. Major got an offer to work at Alaska Pacific Seafoods, which, ironically, was in the old Alaska Ice and Cold Storage building that Jim and his crew were forced to leave in the early 1970s when the building was sold.
Mr. Major was assistant manager at APS and later became its purchasing agent, a job he held for 16 years. Reflecting over a long career in the fishing industry, Mr. Major said the most enjoyable part of his work had been “meeting people and working with the fishermen. Every day there is something new to look forward to. You don’t get bored.”
Mr. Major enjoyed being with his family and was intrigued with math. His daughter, Sheila Marie Major, pays homage to her father by noting that he took great pleasure spending time with his family.
“He was all about the fisherman, the community and the best quality service when dealing with all of it. He was always fair about how he dealt with the business of the fisheries,” Sheila said. “It took time and great determination on his part to build East Point Seafoods.”
The people who worked with her father at Alaska Pacific Seafoods adored him so much they referred to him as “Granda Jim,” Shelia said. “My father was a kind, loving father and husband. He traveled a lot between the few villages he worked with.”
Sheila fondly remembers traveling with her parents for vacations in Hawaii, and Mexico and visiting relatives in Washington. Sheila said her father’s “ability to to continue working in the fisheries in one form or another and his stamina” astounded her. “He was an amazing man in my eyes. I loved my father dearly and he will be greatly missed by all.”
Mr. Major was preceded in death by his parents Jesse Frank Major and Wilma Jean Price Major, sister Mary Alice Pearson, nephew Michael Bevins, granddaughter Sarah Jeanette Major and great-grandson David Cole. He is survived by his wife Sharon Joan Major, son Craig Allen Major, daughter Sheila Marie Major, granddaughter Nicole Mary Major, grandson Anthony Major, great-granddaughters Lexi Craft and Averie Major, great-grandsons Kyle Craft and Rylan Major, sister Dora Ann Gaidrich, nieces Deanna Bevins, Cindy Boyer and Shelly Gaidrich and nephew Clifford Gaidrich, as well as many cousins, aunts and uncles.
Donations can be made in Mr. Major’s memory to the Sarah Major Diabetic Memorial Fund in care of the Kodiak Lions, Box 1735, Kodiak, Alaska 99615. Memorial services for Mr. Major are pending.