Canuck (Warren Cade) Killen was born December 21, 1925 in Lloydminster, Alberta, to James Millar Killen and Jennie Isabell Cade. As a young couple, Canuck’s parents left Illinois to homestead in Canada while keeping their American citizenship. Canuck was the sixth child and brother to James, Robert, George, Ray, and Betty Jane. By the time he reached high school, his practical outlook and independent spirit resulted in getting himself kicked out the 10th grade when, as he described it, “I just couldn’t agree with what they had to offer”. Canuck began an apprenticeship and developed a career as a machinist.
At just eighteen years of age, Canuck enlisted in the US Army/Air Force to fight in WWII. He was stationed in Galena, Alaska in 1944 and 1945, where he fell in love with “The Last Frontier” and decided to make it home. Once discharged, Canuck lived in Fairbanks and worked for a time for Usibelli Coal Mine and later for Fairbanks Exploration Company.
While stationed in Galena, Canuck had another ‘life changing’ event when he met his friend, Jack Irwin, a fellow soldier and kindred spirit, from Monterey, California. The two hatched a plan to buy a boat and ferry materials and supplies up the Chena, Tanana, Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers to settle and start a saw-mill in the village of Bettles. On June, Friday the 13th, 1947, they loaded up and embarked on their grand adventure with many of their friends believing they would never make it. They did make it but had to abandon the idea of a sawmill, instead making a living working for miners, trapping on the Koyukuk and John Rivers, and working as carpenters for the FAA.
Canuck and Jack built a cabin in Bettles and settled in. During this time, Canuck met Nellie Suckik, who was living with her family on the North Fork of the John River. That spring, Nellie’s family moved to Bettles and in 1948, they chartered a flight to Wiseman and were married. Their relationship was built on a mutual love of the land, and they spent their time together hunting, fishing, gathering and truly living off the land.
Canuck was a gifted mechanic, carpenter, machinist, and all-around handyman. From 1952 to 1977, he worked for Wien Airlines as a mechanic/handyman, where he became a part of the Wien family and caught the flying bug. In 1960 he attended the Northrup Institute of Technology. Canuck purchased his own PA 12 aircraft and he and Nellie spent many happy years flying to remote fishing lakes and hunting areas.
By the late 1960s Canuck had become one of Wien’s most talented and valuable mechanics and they asked him to leave Bettles and move to Fairbanks. Canuck and Nellie purchased land on the Chena River. With the help of friends, they built a log home where they created decades of cherished memories with friends and family.
Canuck was the very definition of a true friend and good neighbor. He understood the importance of nurturing friendships and for over half a century, he never missed the daily happy-hour-gathering of friends visiting over a cold drink. Whether on the landing strip at the home of Sy and Dean Foust or later in Ted Ruffi’s hangar, the posse of old friends met daily to converse and enjoy each other's company. Another part of Canuck’s regular routine was to make a stop at Hangar One to see his close friends, Allan Stockbridge and Russ Alis—mentoring and creating specialized tools whenever a job required either.
Some of Canuck’s most treasured memories were made with his dear friend, Mickey VanHatten and the VanHatten family at moose camp each fall. Canuck enjoyed entertaining them with recitals of the countless Robert Service poems he’d committed to memory.
Canuck was extremely practical and independent. Up until weeks before his death, at 93 years of age, he was still driving himself to run errands and attend his daily happy hour. Canuck died, as he lived, simply and peacefully in his home, surrounded by friends and family. In keeping with his practical nature, Canuck didn’t want a funeral or memorial service. Instead, he will be remembered fondly and often by many for the way he lived his life, his good heart, and his helping hands. Manana Canuck.
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