John N. Polivka Dies; Longtime SE Troller

John Nicholas Polivka

On Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, John Nicholas Polivka crossed over the bar to join his Savior, friends, and family on the other side. 

Born in 1941 to John Nicholas and Mary Polivka, both of them children of Czechoslovakian immigrants who had made their voyage to the “New Country” after World War I. John was the first-born son with three older sisters and a younger brother.

John’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors began early. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in forestry, John was offered a job in Southeast Alaska with the U.S. Forest Service. He was quickly packed and on his way. He arrived in Sitka to find a land rich in wilderness and natural resources. His timing was impeccable, following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and the early days of a growing salmon fishing fleet. John was soon bitten by the fishing bug. He worked his timber cruising job by day and any free time he had was spent exploring the waters of Southeast in his Boston Whaler, trolling for King Salmon. John was soon filling his Whaler with the giant Columbia River Kings that roamed local waters.

The decision was made to upgrade to a bigger boat and John worked hard to save enough money to purchase the wooden troller Larkspur II. Unfortunately, this boat soon proved to be too small for John. He often found himself not only filling the hold, but also having to resort to filling the berths and any other space on board with his abundant catches.

John was tireless in his quest to find the secret haunts of the salmon. He would reluctantly pull his gear each day well after the sun set, which is saying something during those long days of summer, and early dawn would find him the first boat on the drag.

His work ethic was a personality trait that runs deeply in his family’s genes. The notion that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” has always been implemented and practiced to the extreme by the Polivkas. That hard work allowed John to begin designing and building the F/V Sunse in the early 1970s. It was a labor of love for John. He was helped in the endeavor by his father, a self-taught industrial designer and architect, who also designed John’s home on Wortman Loop. 

John practiced his faith with the same fervor as his fishing. He made sure to install outdoor speakers on the Sunse so he could listen to scholars and theologians lecture on the proof of God’s existence and the Bible as historical fact. Every boat puller he employed was also introduced to hours of it as well. In another life John would have been a missionary, spreading the gospel and helping the poor around the world. His diligent contributions recall the English poet Spencer: “Let us love, dear love, like as we ought; Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.” In this life, John shared his love of the Lord and love of the outdoors with everyone. He is fondly remembered by his sister Barb and niece Deb for opening their eyes to the beauty and grace of the natural world. John readily shared his passions with anyone who was within earshot and invited many to accompany him on his various hunting and fishing adventures.

 John Polivka loved his family and friends with a deep tenderness. He was forever the “lost boy” seeking families to adopt him. He could eat twice his weight in one sitting and never hesitated to show up unannounced for dinner. Somehow these idiosyncrasies endeared him to many. He was a fortunate man.

 John died doing what he loved. Aboard his beloved Sunse, he fished hard right up to the end of the season and when he had caught “that one last fish,” the Lord opened the doors of heaven to welcome him home. His life and passing call to mind a line from St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in Thee.” 

John is survived by his sisters Mary Anne Cates and Barbara Anderson and his brother Thomas Polivka along with four nieces and two nephews. 

A memorial service to spread John’s ashes in Shelikof Bay is tentatively planned for May 2021. 



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At a Glance

(updated 1-12-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 am Wednesday.

New cases as of Tuesday: 2,414

Total statewide – 167,008

Total (cumulative) deaths – 953

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,311

Current Hospitalizations – 81

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 130 new COVID cases in the past 7 days. Case statistics are as of Sunday.

New cases in Sitka – 7

Cases in last 7 days – 130

Cumulative Sitka cases – 1,467

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.





January 2002

Classified ads, Rentals: 3-bdrm. house on the beach. $900; 3-bdrm duplex, washer/dryer $945; Great downtown house, 2 bdrms., 2 baths, furnished,
W/D, hardwood floors $850; 2-bdrm. roomy apartment $945..


January 1972

The City and Borough Assembly Tuesday approved an ordinance establishing a transportation committee to advise the assembly and promote transportation services for the municipality. Members are Cecil McClain, Ray Mabey, Clarence Kramer,
Dick Cushing and Burt Hansen.