December 29, 2011 | Vol. 38, No. 52

Michael Joseph Wittstock, 68

Michael Joseph Wittstock, 68, ascended from this life on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 20, 2011.

Michael Joseph Wittstock

Michael Joseph Wittstock was born in Juneau, Alaska, April 29, 1943 to Kenneth Joseph Wittstock and Elizabeth (Betty) Jane Miller. In the late summer of that year, the family moved to Spokane, Wash. where they lived with Betty Jane’s parents across the street from Gonzaga University. In 1948, when the family had grown to five children, they moved into their own home on East 9th near Sacred Heart Hospital. The house, which was located on a dead-end street, was a magnet for neighbor kids to join the Wittstock clan for endless hours of play.

Mike graduated from South Kitsap High School in 1961.

After high school, Mike enrolled in Olympic Junior College. The following year, Mike’s father was transferred to Greeley, Colo. He decided to go along with the family, now consisting of 11 children, to Greeley, where he later attended Northern Colorado State College. It was during that time that our country was at war. In January of 1968, Mike enlisted with the Air National Guard, and was deployed to Viet Nam in late January, where he served in active duty for a little over one year. He returned to Greeley in the spring of 1969, where he served for two more years of inactive duty.

After being discharged, Mike took some time to travel Europe. Later, after returning to UNC, Mike met Kristen Naastrom, whom he married in 1977. They were married for seven years. During this time, Mike finished his Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from UNC, and went on to attend Michigan State University with Kris, where he completed a Master’s Degree in Geography and nearly completed a doctoral degree in Cartography. The lure of salmon, however, interfered.

Beginning in the early 70s, Mike spent summers purse seining the waters of Southeast Alaska with Ben Smith and crew - Mike Stainbrook, Dick Wittstock, Mike Paulsen, Dave Grant, Brian Doerty, and numerous others over the years on the F/V Miss Sheri from Gig Harbor. It was during these summers that Mike found himself, and discovered that he was wired for this lifestyle: to spend his life chasing fish.

On June 28, 1988, Mike met Bridget Dahl, a Petersburg native, aboard the F/V Christian S skippered by Dick Eide. Bridget and Mike fell in love during that summer, and three years later were married in Petersburg in the Lutheran Church.

Up until the spring of 2010, when Mike first became ill with prostate cancer and then acute myeloid leukemia, Mike continued to fish commercially for a living. He spent twenty years aboard the F/V Dream Maid, with Robin Leekley, Bill McNab, Mike Stainbrook, and Kevin Doerty. This team of five, a well-oiled machine, was his family during the long-line season, a time of hard work filled with harmony, respect, admiration, and memories. In the spring, he also found himself involved with herring, spending time at Hoonah Sound harvesting roe-on-kelp. Lifetime friendships were formed with Chris Jensen, Jerry Dahl, and Albert Hofstad during this time of pure physical labor. During the summer months, Mike ran his own operation as a brief-case skipper on various seine boats in SE Alaska. Later, he transitioned to gillnet fishing in Bristol Bay, mostly to compress the season in order to spend more time at home with his new-found joy, his children.

Mike was a devoted father and husband. He took his role as a dad extremely seriously, as one could witness any day walking into their house. Mike readily pitched in with diapers, baths, and laundry, spending oodles of time reading, playing, and caring for each child. Mike cherished his children, and he beamed with pride and love as he retold stories of their adventures, accomplishments, and time together. He shared his love of geography, books, sports and travel with the kids. The last twenty years of Mike’s life he was the most contented.

Mike also knew good health was a gift, and he made a conscious choice throughout his life to eat well, exercise both his body and his brain, and experience limited libations. It is due to the fact that he had such a solid base, both physically, mentally and spiritually, that he was able to withstand the many exhausting and potentially life-threatening cancer treatments. With such determination, strength, courage and will, he outlived expectations. The last month of his life was truly a gift, surrounded by friends and family in the comforts of his own home in Petersburg.

He is preceded in death by his father, Kenneth Joseph, in 1977 and his mother, Betty Jane, in 1980.

He is survived by his wife, Bridget Wittstock, and their children, Kristian Kjell and Gillian Louise; his 10 siblings: sisters Missy Blake, Pat Anderson, Lou Smith, Kay Tiemann, and Theresa Billiet, and brothers Jim, Dick, Tim, Steve and Joe Wittstock, numerous nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, December 30 at 11:00 a.m. at Petersburg Lutheran Church. In lieu of flowers the family requests that you make a donation to the Petersburg Public Library fund.

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