John Hubbard, 11-17-97

Anchorage Daily News
Thursday, November 20, 1997

By Rachel D'oro, Daily News Reporter

John Hubbard wasn't one to sit idle in his Homer house, just because he was retired. He always had someone to visit, some item to deliver, somewhere to drive.

So when the 72-year-old man was gone longer than expected Monday, those who knew him figured his rounds just took longer than usual.

Hubbard, a retired heavy equipment operator, had gotten into a jam earlier that morning. He called his wife, Donna, and said the fog was so thick that he had driven his pickup truck into a ditch. He managed to get the truck out of the ditch, but called a short time later to say he struck a tree. He never called back, so his wife figured he was OK.

But by Monday night, she and his neighbors were starting to worry.

The next day, friends and neighbors launched an intensive search and found Hubbard's body less than a mile from his Ohlson Mountain Road home. Apparently, he had abandoned his disabled truck and started to walk home through the woods when he stumbled into a small beaver pond and drowned, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.

"It was very, very foggy here that morning," Sgt. David Hudson said. "You could barely see your hand in front of you."

Judging by footprints in the area, Hubbard began walking through the woods, apparently heading for his house. Hudson said the elderly man probably slipped on the icy bank of the beaver pond, falling head first.

Like many in Homer, Hudson knew Hubbard, who occasionally dropped by the trooper post. He remembered Hubbard as a friendly man with a sharp mind. A year ago, Hubbard mentioned he was thinking of starting his own tow truck service, Hudson recalled.

"He was a real nice fellow," Hudson said. "He was always up when I dealt with him."
By 7:30 Monday night, Donna Hubbard was concerned enough to call Connie and Randy Whitehorn next door, saying her husband hadn't shown up to scheduled appointments. But she still held out hope that her husband was visiting one of his many friends, Connie Whitehorn said.

Hubbard's wife, who had been married to him for 52 years, called the Whitehorns again just before midnight, saying her husband still wasn't home, Connie Whitehorn said. The couple decided to drive the Skyline Road and quickly found the ditch with telltale tire marks. But there was no sign of Hubbard.

By Tuesday morning, worried friends and neighbors gathered to help look for the missing man. Donna Hubbard called troopers to report her husband missing, saying he could have been headed to Happy Valley, where he was supposed to deliver a welding set, troopers said.

While rescuers searched by helicopter, at least a dozen of Hubbard's friends walked around the area, using the tire marks in the ditch as a starting guide, Connie Whitehorn said. Shortly after 2 p.m., the search party found the truck in the woods. Nearly an hour later, they found Hubbard's body.
Connie Whitehorn said she and her husband had known Hubbard for more than a decade. An early riser, John Hubbard often dropped by before dawn to have coffee with them before setting off for his many interests, including auction sales, where he would buy things to repair and resell, Whitehorn said.

"He liked to wheel and deal, and stay busy," she said, her voice breaking. "There's already a big void."