Clinton Ray Schoenleber

 August 14, 1934 - November 21, 2021


How do we write a goodbye letter that captures the soul of our Dad? The guy we have loved our whole lives, and who has done so many interesting things that he could be the subject of his own book? Dad often joked that he was going to write a book about his life, and he would title it: “I Could Have Been a Ballet Dancer.” This is our ode to Dad, Clinton “Clint” Ray Schoenleber, a man we loved dearly, even if he didn’t come close to dancing in a ballet.

Dad was born in his family’s house in Edwardsville, Illinois in 1934, the seventh of nine kids. When he turned 17, he jumped at the chance to escape the small-town scene and live with his older brother Don in Alaska. In Anchorage, Dad worked at Sea Airmotive where he learned how to fly small planes. It was then that he also became a guide, taking rich people out into the bush on hunting and fishing trips. 

In 1962 he met Mom on a blind date, set up by a mutual friend. On their first date, Dad took her out in a four-seater Cessna. It must have been the best plane ride in the history of plane ride dates because Dad and Mom were married six weeks later. Jill (1963), Michael (1965, passed away after birth), and Kristi (1968) were born in Anchorage. Ken joined the team in 1970. 

By the time Ken was born, we were living in Fairbanks where Dad soon became a captain for Alaska International Air, flying C-130s all over the world, sometimes — and much to the excitement of us kids — carrying suitcases stuffed with cash. When AIA became MarkAir, he flew Boeing 737s in Alaska and up and down both the East and West Coasts. His flying exploits throughout his career didn’t go unnoticed, for he was referenced in several books written by people he knew. Dad was respectfully nicknamed “Captain Dutch” because he could smoothly navigate a plane into Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where the runway is short and landing is notoriously tricky. We also knew and loved him as “Captain Grim.” Most of you know that “grim” was his well-known word of choice.

Dad loved local hockey. And he funneled that passion into the transformation of the Big Dipper Skating Arena. He and other hockey fanatics worked with the mayor at the time, to get that old rundown rink upgraded into the building we know and love today. His love of hockey didn’t stop there.  He built us kids a skating rink in the backyard, complete with a net and a homemade Zamboni. He sharpened skates at Sport King whenever he was in town and Roger needed his help. And one year he even coached Sport King’s Women’s Hockey team. 

Dad was extremely proud of the work he did (and his family was equally proud) of establishing the AIA pilots’ union. He and two of his best friends, Dale Ranstead and Terry Reece (along with others), were the driving force that made this possible. And, after many long nights propped up with coffee, cigarettes, and wine, the union was born. AIA pilots finally had healthcare and a pension!

Dad loved his job as an airline Captain and when he was forced to retire at 60, he was really pissed. On that day he took his watch off and never wore it again. 

Mom and Dad moved to Port Townsend in 1997. They bought a little house that was built in (circa) 1860, and they remodeled it themselves to reflect the original floor plan. And that was our Dad; he could fix anything and everything on the planet. He spent the last 24 years of his life on Tyler Street, and never wanted to live anywhere else. But he and mom were still avid travelers, taking excursions to explore different countries and going on road trips throughout the U.S.; Iceland and St. Petersburg were two of his favorite destinations. 

Dad always supported us to be ourselves. He didn’t spend much time giving advice, but he had our backs. He was open-minded and accepting. He loved our friends and treated them like his own. He loved animals and they always gravitated toward him. He believed traveling was an education in itself. And his mantra was: You can take whatever you want on a trip, but it’s your responsibility and you have to carry it yourself. That’s why we all travel with just one suitcase apiece!

He could fix anything. He could build anything. He was artistic — yes, he sculpted the totem pole in front of our Fairbanks house by hand. He was funny and gregarious — the life of the party. He had so many sayings and catchphrases that we will never forget. And he was the best storyteller. He loved to sit at any kitchen table, drink red wine or Bud Light and tell stories — and he had so many. We didn’t even care if we heard them a million times. 

But above all, he loved his family. He loved it when all his kids were home at the same time, even if we didn’t do anything but watch TV scrunched on the couch together in the living room. He treasured every Schoenleber family reunion, and he dove deep into his Schoenleber genealogy. “Papa” adored his three grandsons Austin, Atticus, and Sebastian. He loved them to the moon and back and would do anything for them. 

Dad had a wonderful sense of humor and he always made us laugh. It’s why Mom fell in love with him, and why we kids emulated him. He did everything himself and on his own terms. It’s how he lived and how he died. Up until the end Dad still made jokes. He still told stories. And he told us he loved us. 

Dad is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sonja; his children Jill, Kristi, and Ken (Elizabeth); his wonderful grandsons; his sisters Marilyn and Edee (Ron); his brother Tom (Janet); many nieces and nephews; along with many other friends and family who have known and loved him.  If you would like to remember him in some way, please send a donation to our Dad’s favorite charity, your local food bank. 

A Celebration of Life in Dad’s honor is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 14, 2022 in Port Townsend, Washington.