John T. Cleaver, Fisherman, Musician, Dies at Age 73

John Thomas Cleaver


John T. Cleaver lost his battle with lung disease on Nov. 1, 2021. He went peacefully and quietly into the crisp, clear day. That night he danced his way out of our world leaving behind the green and blue trails of the Northern Lights.

John Thomas Cleaver was born Jan. 8, 1948, in Seattle, Washington,  to Herb and Gina Cleaver. He was the youngest of four children, and the Cleaver kids were tight, even into their 70s and 80s. It was the Kids against the Parents and they always backed each other up. John’s father owned a 1927 Lake Union Dreamboat, the Marian II. It would become John’s first boat. John and his father LOVED to catch king salmon, so John’s fascination with the sea started at a very young age. The family spent summers exploring the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound. 

Music was another family activity – all the Cleavers played instruments and they had a music room where they sang and played. In junior high, John joined a band called the Valiants, and in high school he helped form The Bumps. (Look them up!) He played local frat parties at the University of Washington, then later branched out into the music scene of the late 1960s, playing saxophone, bass guitar and singing. They recorded in Los Angeles, played BIG music festivals, opened for Van Morrison (Them), Alice Cooper, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Sam the Sham, and many more. His band made the Billboard 100 in 1969. He was a big deal back then and the band traveled and played weekends up and down the west coast. However the musician’s life was not for John. 

In 1970, he set out on his Matchless motorcycle, “El Greaso” across Canada and the United States to seek his future in Massachusetts. He worked construction, in a bakery and in his free time he sport fished, selling his catch at the end of the day. This was the start of his illustrious fishing career. He returned to Washington in 1972, scored a job on a fishing boat and headed north to Alaska. Two years later he was the skipper of the F/V Flyer. He joined the Seafood Producers Coop that same year. John loved commercial fishing for salmon, halibut and back cod. He needed a bigger boat as his operations were growing, so in 1978 he purchased the F/V Deep Sea. That boat was the love of his life – he fished March to October in Alaska then returned to Seattle for the winters.

In 1998, John made his last voyage up the Inside Passage and made Sitka his permanent home. In 2015, John sold the F/V Deep Sea and settled on a retirement boat, F/V Jam In, which he fished all the way up until his passing.

John loved to catch fish and he could be spotted on the best trolling grounds in Alaska. He made a fine living off the Pacific Ocean and was a gentleman troller and longliner, a friend to all and was there for you if ever in a jam! He fished commercially for 50 years, an amazing feat for sure.

In 2001, John opened his business Wood Dudes. Many Sitka businesses and residences have been outfitted with John’s expert knowledge of cabinetry and furniture construction. He solved many problems with wood. Those who visited the shop were greeted with a smile and an epic mustache. And if they were really lucky, they’d have a Cleaver original in their home or business. Sitka was lucky to have John and Wood Dudes.

John loved his only daughter, Noelle. He was so proud of her many accomplishments and her good-hearted nature. He also took delight in the company of his two awesome grandsons, Tyler and Tanner. He taught those young lads about the ocean, taking them fishing and beachcombing, and hosted annual hermit crab races. John’s family would join him every summer for outstanding Alaskan adventures, and in the winter they would travel to warmer climates and explore the sea.

Life is cyclical and John’s memories will be passed on through his life’s work and his life’s love. If you knew John, then you were very fortunate indeed. He was a fine friend, partner, husband, father and man. Whether you remember him for his mustache, his flashy style, his kind nature, his beautiful boat or that 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible he bought when he was 18 and drove on sunny summer days, remember John and keep him close to your heart. Tell a story from time to time to keep the legend alive.

John is survived by wife Michelle Turner Cleaver, Sitka; daughter Noelle Cleaver Bergman, Port Angeles, Washington; son-in-law Tyler Bergman Sr.; grandsons Tyler Bergmann Jr. and Tanner Bergmann; sister Alice Cleaver Lamken, Seattle; cousins Virginia Olney, Bae Olney Miller and Nick Olney Miller, all of Sitka; sister-in-law Sandi Hill Cleaver, Mukileto, Washington; as well as Bumps bandmates Robert F. Van den Akker, Gary Walsh and Bob Greer.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Herb and Gina Cleaver, brother William H. Cleaver, sister Charlotte Cleaver Crane, cousin Grant Miller and Bumps bandmate Larry Richstein.

Donations can be made to Brave Heart Volunteers, 120 Katlian St, Sitka, AK.

John’s memorial will be held Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Those who would like to attend are asked to RSVP Michelle at 907-738-6423.

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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 Friday: 2,512

Total statewide – 172,329

Total (cumulative) deaths – 955

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,337

Current Hospitalizations – 103

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

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 153 new COVID cases in the past 7 days. Case statistics are as of Sunday.

New cases in Sitka – 34

Cases in last 7 days – 153

Cumulative Sitka cases – 1,531

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.