By Steve Jordan
Lee Brookins Jordan passed suddenly December 31, 2018, as he left a family New Year’s Eve event.
He was 88 years old. Lee was cherished by his family, his church, and deeply respected within the community he dearly loved.
Lee was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September 22, 1930, to Gordon B. and Nell Jordan. Always independent and seeking opportunities, he joined the United States Army in 1948 and asked to be stationed “any place that’s warm.” He soon arrived in Whittier, Alaska January 4th, 1949 and spent his first Alaska night in a freezing canvas tent.
Near the onset of the Korean war, Lee volunteered to serve with the Alaska Communications System as a teletype operator. The only problem was, he didn’t mention his inability to type. He learned on the job, though, and spent the rest of his career wearing the letters off keyboards.
After leaving the military, he joined with the Anchorage Times as a typesetter.
It was there that he became part of history by creating the “WE’RE IN” newspaper headline that is now an icon of Alaska Statehood.
It was at this time he met Barbara, his “first bride” as he liked to call her when she worked at Lu’s Café. Every evening Lee would go in for dinner and order chicken fried steak. It came with a side of peas. They remained on the plate every night. One night he asked her if she would go on a date. Her answer? “Not until you finish your peas!” It worked.
Shortly thereafter, he started his own business, Arctic Printing, which operated in Anchorage in 1958 and then moved to Chugiak in 1962.
The move to the Birchwood/Chugiak started a whole new life for Lee. Everywhere he looked, he saw a need for development, and there was no shortage of enthusiastic neighbors to help. Back then, the Chugiak Eagle River area was just a place north of Anchorage with not much more than two elementary schools and a post office. Change was coming.
Little League baseball was the first beneficiary. Within a year he helped found the Knik Little League (four teams) so that children could play locally instead of going to Anchorage. Today that organization serves over 500 kids and 41 teams. When his son outgrew Little League, Lee helped found the Babe Ruth League, and three years later the community’s first American Legion team. Each of these organizations quickly produced state championship teams that represented Alaska well in national competition.
Lee worked as the Civil Service Print Shop Supervisor at Ft. Richardson from 1961-1969. It was there he rode out the Great Alaska Earthquake, and it was his last workplace where he worked for someone else.
Lee founded the Chugiak-Eagle River Star January 14th, 1971.
The weekly newspaper became a center for local businesses. Politicians often stopped by to chat, and it was common to see several legislators in the front lobby. The conversations were animated, friendly and focused on the good of the community.
As the area grew, so did its desire for independence. Lee was part of the Rural 30 movement seeking to form its own borough. He was elected as Eagle River’s first and last mayor in 1974. Sadly, the courts ruled against the effort, and the new borough was dissolved. But, it was hardly the end of his political influence and community involvement.
Lee was a founder of many significant local organizations and served on several Board of Directors. His resume included Chairman, Greater Anchorage Area Borough Board of Examiners and Appeals, 1972-1974; Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, 1972-present (4 terms as president); Kiwanis International, Eagle River Chapter, Founding President; Matanuska Electric Association Board of Directors, appointed 2003, elected 2005; Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation, Chugiak Senior Center, Board of Directors; Alaska Veterans Memorial Museum; Alaska Newspaper Editors and Publishers Association, President; and Eagle River Historical Society.
Lee found his spiritual center at the Eagle River Presbyterian Church. There he and Barbara worshipped, and Lee enjoyed singing in the choir.
His newspaper, now the Alaska Star, was sold to Morris Communications in the year 2000. It wasn’t the only newspaper he produced, however. He also published the Cook Inlet Sports Review, the Suburbanite, and the Katchamak Compass (based in Homer, Alaska).
The sale of the Star was intended to be the beginning of Lee’s retirement but, apparently, nobody told him.
He continued to serve on community boards and often appeared on the television show, The Inside Edition, as a panel member to discuss local issues. He authored three books. “Starlight Memories,” a compilation of his Star editorials; “Reflections of a Reluctant Alaskan,” a biographical history of his experiences here; and his latest book, “STAMPEDE! Saints, Successes, Suckers & Scoundrels of the Yukon Gold Rush.” He also wrote an update for Marjorie Cochran’s “Between Two Rivers.”
Lee was an ardent Seattle Mariners fan. Twenty-nine family members took him to Seattle to celebrate his 80th birthday and see his name up on the scoreboard.
Lee is survived by his wife, Barbara Gayle Jordan and his children: Stephan Jordan (Jane), Sonja Kmak (Andy), Sherri Spangler (Mike), Sven Jordan (Diana), and the family wishes to include David Haynes and Lon Hankins in that group. Lee and Barbara have nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Nelda Pugh, and extended family in Alabama.
Services for family and church members will be held Thursday, January 17th at 7 PM in the Eagle River Presbyterian Church, 12836 Old Glenn Highway, Eagle River, Alaska. A Celebration of Life will be held for the public at the Bartlett High School Auditorium Saturday, January 19th at 6 PM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chinooks Booster Club; P.O. Box 670001; Chugiak, AK 99567-0001 cerchinooks.com and to the KNIK Little League P.O. Box 771384 Eagle River, AK 99577 firstname.lastname@example.org