Keith Winton Specking



Keith Winton Specking, of Medford, Ore., died Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 at his Eagle Point, Ore., home. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Keith was born in Hanson, Ky., in July of 1919 and spent his early years in St. Louis, Mo., working to support a large family after his father died.

He joined the Army in 1941 and was stationed in Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was blown out of bed that morning when a bomb hit a nearby fuel depot. Keith's first tour of duty was with the armored cavalry and he re-enlisted for a second tour as a paratrooper. He jumped out of the first plane he ever flew in. He was active in the Philippines at the height of the bitter war effort there, and was with the first troops to enter Japan after its surrender.

Upon his honorable discharge in 1945, Keith and his close friend, Curt Young, bought a surplus Army truck and drove up the muddy Alaska Highway to begin a new life. He worked part time as a civilian for the 57th Fighter Wing in Anchorage during those first years in the Alaska.

In August of 1949, Keith met a young woman who was on vacation in Alaska and who had been part of the war effort in Washington, D.C. A year later, July of 1950, Keith married that woman, Vera Vaughan, who had grown up on a cattle ranch in western Colorado.

Together, the pair started the Rabbit Creek Inn south of Anchorage and later moved to the tiny village of Hope, across Turn again Arm from Anchorage. They started a family and began the adventure that would carry them for the next 40 years to far parts of the state as big game guides. A master guide, Keith and Vee established their base camp for Alaskan Adventures in 1958 on the Brushkana River east of Cantwell.

They guided big game clients from around the world for Alaska grizzly bear, Dall sheep, walrus, and mountain goat as well as Alaska moose and caribou.

While running the guiding business, Keith also was elected to the Alaska state legislature in 1970, representing the Kenai Peninsula district. He was serving his second term when then-Gov. Jay Hammond, asked Keith to be his legislative assistant. For the next 12 years, Keith worked side-by-side with the governor in his efforts to ensure strong future Alaska fisheries, reorganize the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and to establish the Alaska Permanent Fund, which to this day still returns to each Alaska resident a portion of oil-revenue taxes. He was a member of the International North Pacific Fisheries Council and later the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

The pair began wintering in Oregon in the late 1980s and eventually purchased 160 acres of forested hill land under Chimney Rock, near the end of Antelope Road, near Eagle Point, Ore. There, they built a home that would serve as a winter headquarters for themselves and their horses after summers hunting and guiding in the Alaska Range.

For more than 20 years, the pair traveled the Alcan Highway, often with their horses in tow, north in the spring and south in September after the first snows.

In later years, after retiring as a guide, Keith took up oil painting under the tutelage of Bob Grogan, of Sun Valley. While still traveling north to Alaska each year, he and Vee would stop along the road to capture a beautiful scene on canvas, or wet a hook at an inviting trout stream.

Keith is survived by his wife, Vera Specking, of Eagle Point; son, Glenn Specking, his wife, Ramona; and grandchildren, Danielle and Michael, all of Anchorage, Alaska; daughter, Joan Specking and husband, Edwin Bender, of Helena, Mont.; three sisters, Sue Young, of Murphys, Calif., Patty Lou and husband, Martin MacDonagh, of Lewiston, Idaho and Connie and husband, Art Reno, of San Mateo, Calif. Keith survived his brother, Glenn, a Marine who died in a plane crash on Mount Whitney while training during the war.

A military service will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 25, 2009, at the Eagle Point National Cemetery, 2763 Riley Road in Eagle Point, OR. Arrangements are being handled by Conger-Morris.