OBITUARY: John L. Rhines

John L. Rhines

October 8, 1951 — March 30, 2021

Longtime Kodiak resident John L. Rhines died unexpectedly on March 30, 2021, and left his family and many friends suddenly bereft of his kind heart, gift of genuine friendship and supernatural mechanical skills.

Although he was born in Seattle on October 8, 1951, John liked to tell people he was lucky to escape to Fairbanks, Alaska, before any lasting Lower 48 impressions spoiled his Sourdough Outlook. The lucky boy who was born on the opening day of duck-hunting season rarely missed an opportunity to hunt. He was raised in a pre-statehood Alaska that gave him the freedom to roam Fairbanks at will on his bicycle. He attended Denali and Nordale elementary schools before his family moved to Kodiak in 1963.

He was in the seventh grade on March 27, 1964, and, like all children that day, formed lasting memories of the historic earthquake and tidal waves in Kodiak. He loved to reminisce that he and Steve Horn were riding their bikes on Mission Beach and “never felt a thing!” Dedicated to The Rock, he sent out many historical reminders, photos and recollections of a time no 1964 Kodiakian has ever forgotten.

John was an avid reader and got through his Kodiak High School years by reading Louis L’Amour cowboy books at home, while enjoying auto, shop and art classes, hunting and fishing whenever possible, and playing laid-back volleyball. After a couple of summer seasons, John decided a seine boat was not the best fit for his 6-foot, 5-inch frame, so John joined the Navy the day after graduating in 1969.

John was assigned to China Lake, California, for his entire four-year enlistment. He fine-tuned his natural mechanical skills there, receiving training on fighter jets and other naval aircraft as an aviation and structural mechanic. He was honorably discharged in 1973, with a National Defense Service medal for serving during the Vietnam war.

After rattling around California for about a year with his boyhood friend Mark Selvog, John returned to Kodiak where he tested for his airframe and powerplant certification. He spent the next 20 years working as an A&P mechanic for Kodiak Western Airlines, Central Air Maintenances, and Hal’s Air Service/Seair. It was there he met the love of his life, a Grumman Goose owned by Steve Harvey. John stripped and rebuilt the historic amphibious airplane countless times to keep it in pristine flying condition. He often related stories about wedging himself into tiny areas to make a repair. His jobs often called for him to fly to remote areas to repair broken-down planes. He often shared stories about those “turn and burn” repair stories with his family and keenly felt the reasonability of keeping “his” pilots safely flying.

He was the maintenance supervisor for Peninsula Airways when he resigned to work for Waste Management Services. Here the heavy hydraulics and the 20 previous years of mechanics caught up with him. After a back surgery ended his mechanical career, John used his veteran benefits to go to Kodiak Community College, where he earned an Associate of Science degree in information technology in 2007. He was immediately hired by the Kodiak School District and then later by the Kodiak Borough in the IT departments.

John flourished at the borough offices. He was awarded employee of the year and employee of the month several times, until he voluntarily stepped out of the selection process. For the last several years he served as shop steward for the union. John brightened up the borough’s offices each Friday by wearing one of his many Aloha shirts. During the last 10 years he played an important part in the high school reunions of Kodiak High School, providing the committee with graphics and computer services. He was looking forward to this summer’s event.

John was preceded in death by his mother and father, Jack L. Rhines and Jean (Perry) Rhines, and his brothers-in-law Kaino Dixon and Don Mathews. He lives forever in the hearts of his three sisters, Barbara Britch and husband Robert Britch, Fran Dixon Mathews, and Jan Burnham and her husband Monte Burnham. He is also survived by loving nieces and nephews Kat Britch; Sam Britch; Brendan Mathews; Caitlin Mathews; Shelby and Jack O’Neil; and Joanna and Brock Maybee. John was Great- “Unc” to Jack, Abbee and Daisee Britch. John additionally leaves behind a legacy of being the informal “Mr. John” and “Uncle” to many Kodiak kids in his family of Kodiak friends, sharing his outdoor skills, extraordinary sandwich making and caring heart.

A celebration of John’s life is planned for Saturday, April 24, 2021, at the Kodiak Elks Club from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Camouflage and Aloha wear optional, but encouraged!

John’s cremains will be scattered by family later.

The family suggests that those who wish to mark John’s memory may donate to the American Lung Assoc., 500 W. International Airport Road, Anchorage, AK 99518 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) prevention and education.

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