William George (Bill) Stroecker, Fairbanks’ best known civic leader since the days before Statehood, passed away early Monday, November 8, 2010, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Stroecker, 90, had been hospitalized on October 30th, following a heart attack. His eight-day hospital stay was marked by a steady flow of loving relatives and adoring Fairbanksans from all walks of life.
Born in Fairbanks on July 31, 1920, Stroecker had the rare distinction of never calling anywhere else home, leaving Fairbanks only in 1938 to attend New Mexico Military Institute and then again near the end of World War II when stationed at Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada as part of the Lend-Lease Program. Following high school graduation in 1938 he spent two years at New Mexico Military and then entered the University of Alaska where he graduated with a class of 30 in 1942. Shortly thereafter he entered the U.S. Army and was initially stationed at Ladd Field in his hometown.
Following the war Bill, the son and grandson of pioneer Alaskan families, returned to Fairbanks and took the post of bookkeeper at First National Bank. He succeeded his brother, Ed, as bank president in 1967, remaining in that position until the bank was sold in 1978. Bill continued to serve as vice president of public relations at the First National successor, Key Bank, until entering the hospital. Over all the years Bill was a familiar sight to Fairbanksans trudging to and from work in his long raccoon coat and hat.
Charming to the core, the rugged Stroecker enjoyed a wide-range of activities. His musical talents are legend as he played his trumpet at local dances and functions. He played regularly in recent years with a jazz band known as the Frigid-Aires. His interest in music, particularly jazz, ran deep and he spent many relaxing hours listening to the works of great artists from the first half of the last century.
Bill took particular interest in The Salvation Army and the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks baseball team. He was a hard-working contributor to both organizations. He is the only “life” member of the Fairbanks Salvation Army Board, having served since its inception more than 50 years ago. His tenure with the Goldpanners began in 1962 and for 50 playing seasons he contributed much time and energy. Remarkably, he served the last 46 years as president of the board of directors, winning successive one-year terms.
Bill was a basketball player and wrestler in younger days. His love of baseball was passed from his father Eddie, who is credited with founding the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game in 1906. Eddie was considered a top talent on the playing field. Bill continued the legacy of the Midnight Sun Game throughout his years, in part a tribute to his father.
The list of his other civic undertakings is long. He was a founding member of the Greater Fairbanks Hospital Foundation; served on the board of the Friends of the University Museum; belonged to the Fairbanks Rotary Club; served on the State of Alaska Guide Board; served as chairman of the Alaska Banker’s Association; was a member of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce and a past chairman; served on the Fairbanks Urban Beautification Commission; and numerous other advisory posts. Bill joined Igloo No. 4, Pioneers of Alaska, in 1951, earning life membership in 1976.
As public as his life was, Bill saved his most enjoyable times for himself and a few friends. An avid outdoorsman he spent literally every weekend soaking up the great outdoors whether it be boating, fishing, hunting, hiking or snowshoeing. Over the years he obtained a number of cabins in the Interior, including several at remote locations where he would walk miles to reach them, even at age 90. He, with a partner, built the first recreational cabin on the Salcha River in 1951. Joining Bill on such adventures would be his prized labrador retrievers. Racey was his faithful lab companion at the time of his passing. Bill obtained his first black lab in 1944 and over the next 65 years had one or more at all times. He took great pains in training the dogs and was active in Fairbanks Retriever Club trials over the years.
Another passion for Bill was Alaskana. He acquired a great collection of items and had a deep knowledge of the history of the state and the Fairbanks area in particular.
Bill’s grandfather, Charles N. Creamer, crossed the Chilkoot Trail in 1897. In what Bill considered one of his major accomplishments, he retraced his grandfather’s footsteps in 1997, at age 77, and some 100 years later. It was done in much the same vein as he officiated at the 2010 Midnight Sun Game some 105 years after his father established that event which has become a part of Alaska history. Bill never failed to get a twinkle in his eye when talking of his parents, grandparents and others of the pioneer times. Bill admitted to being joined to the past and liking it that way.
Bill received virtually every award on the local front. He has been named the Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Alaska Alumni Foundation; received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America; was named the Fairbanks Historical Person of the Year; and has received the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce’s Golden Citizens President’s Award. Additionally, he has received top honors from virtually all of the organizations to which he served or belonged, including mention at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife Eleanor Wagner Stroecker; his parents Edward H. Stroecker and Mattie Creamer Anderson Stroecker; a brother Edward; and his sister Marion Weeks. With him at the time of his passing was his dear friend, Pat Marlin. Survivors include:
Bill was survived by his step-son, Rick Wagner; grandchildren, Deborah (Ray) Lee, Richard (Felicia) Wagner, Christy Shira, Trish (Ray) Mikolajczyk, Gregory (Jerrie) Wagner, Kristin Wagner, Dr. Jacquelyn (Andrew) Serrano; great-grandchildren, Jason (Desiree) Lee, Joshua Lee, Jeffrey Lee, Jacob Lee, Rose Wagner, David Wagner, Devin Boudreaux, Walter Kelly, Michael Kelly, Ginny Kelly, Molly Kelly, Scotty Kelly, and Trent Wagner; his step-daughter, L’Marie (Wiley) Beaux; grandchildren, Lance Nichols, Lori Stepaniak, Lisa Merritt, Lynette Leasure, Lane Nichols, Miles Beaux, Nicolette Fenton, Chris Beaux, Noni Rathbum, Elaine Nichols, Priscilla Montinelli, Irene Nichols, Gus Nichols; great-grandchildren, Lia (Andrew) Thurston, Joey Nichols, Christina Stepaniak, Dustin Stepaniak, Caleen Stepaniak, Courtney Stepaniak, Caleb Stepaniak, Caitlyn Stepaniak, Darrek Stepaniak, Macayla Stepaniak, Trent Merritt, Tyler Merritt, Trason Merritt, Travis Merritt, Kattrina Crouch, Kylie Crouch, Megan Leasure, Spencer Leasure, Rebecca Beaux, Tyvan Beaux, Sara Sorden, Beaux Fenton, Bridgette Fenton, Audrey Beaux, Quenten Beaux, Conlan Beaux, Alaura Beaux, Steven Sloan, Marie Rathbun, Gerald Rathbun, Frank Nichols, Aaron Montinelli, Katie Montinelli, Peter Montinelli, Monya Montinelli, Fred Nichols, Nicole Nichols, and Ryan Nichols; great-great-grandchildren, Mackinzie Thruston, Jordan Thruston, Deshun Stepaniak, Tyson Merritt, Tenneson Merritt, Daniel Nichols, Charlize Wilson, Elijah Wilson; his step-son, Randolph Wagner; grandchildren, William Wagner, and Weslin Wagner; his step-son, Lanny (Anne) Wagner; grandchildren, Karn Wagner; his cousin, Jane (Bill) Pryor; second cousins, Rick Winther, John WInther, and Dale Winther; his niece, Maggie (Larry) Hackenmiller, Linda Stroecker; grand-nieces and nephews, Cary Hackenmiller, Matt Hackenmiller, Ben Stroecker, Sarena Hackenmiller, Stacey (Rob) Carpenter, Jamie (Lee) Hall; great-grand-niece, Hope Carpenter; his cousins, Gary (Yolanda) Creamer, Don (Sandy) Creamer, Chuck Creamer, Roxie Creamer, Jeanne (Leslie) Creamer, Jeff (Christol) Creamer; his grand-neices and nephews, Kirsten O’Malley, Alexis (Sean) Borger, Jeremy Creamer, and Anna Creamer