The two were married in 1972 and traveled to the East coast. Seeing pictures on a calendar of big trees in British Columbia, they decided to move there. However, since they could not work in Canada they ran out of money and moved to Ketchikan. Here Roger worked in a fish plant.
Ketchikan was a wild town in those days. The mills and fish processors operated around the clock. The town flowed with money. Once when the couple were walking down the street, they saw a man thrown bodily through a bar’s swinging doors. He landed on the street right in front of them.
From 1973 until 1997, when the family finally moved to Gustavus, they lived a bit of a nomadic lifestyle. They spent time in British Columbia, Juneau, and Game Creek on Chichagof Island, returning to Indiana for a few years now and then. Roger made his first spoon at Game Creek, cutting a chunk off a 100-ounce bar of silver to do so. New children graced the family regularly, and by the time they moved to Gustavus, there were 10 of them.
Their most remote residence was their home at Game Creek on Chichagof Island. Roger saw a recent internet report that claimed the island had the highest density of bears anywhere in the world. Bears were part of their way of life. Once when Roger was cutting wood on the beach, he saw a very large bear approaching his cows, grazing nearby. As he watched, two of the cows saw the bear and charged it, chasing it off. Another time he watched a cow and a horse gang up on a bear and send it running. In a third incident, he and Mary were out walking. They could see the cattle grazing in a higher pasture. When a bear came on the scene, the cows lined up and ran at the bear en masse, sending the large animal packing.
In 1997, the Williams bunch finally found a home in Gustavus. The family had visited Gustavus several times before they moved.
Roger thought he could make a living making jewelry and doing repairs. He set up shop at the Gustavus Dray and started making a few spoons. Then they moved to their own small shop on Wilson Road in Gustavus, where Roger made jewelry and they sold fast food. Said Mary, “Making food was a good way to get acquainted.” Two of their daughters also worked in the little restaurant.
Mary says they home-schooled the children for a time in Gustavus. They had cows, sheep, and a horse. Roger and a friend invested in some Icelandic sheep, for the wool. They milked the cows and sold the milk to Gustavus residents.
Mary recalls that the biggest problem they had with the children was keeping track of all of them. It became important to count heads, to make sure no one was missing. Once in Juneau, they were almost home from a church service and realized one son, Elijah, was not with them. They drove back to the church and found him waiting at the door with a lady from the church who stayed to wait with him.
On a ferry trip, Roger saw a spoon for sale that was made of pewter. The bowl almost looked like a coin, giving him the idea of doing a spoon with a coin in the bowl. He thought that spoons could be made from silver or copper and sold as souvenirs.
By 2002, Roger was making more spoons than jewelry. He uses a lot of coins in his creations. Popular are Irish coins or the Alaska state quarter featuring a bear design. One of his sons built the small structure between their house and the road that would be used for a shop.
Roger now works in copper and German silver, making ladles, serving spoons, coffee measures, spatulas, teaspoons and tablespoons. His daughter, Hannah, does some of the designs stamped into the spoons, a process called “chasing.”
Roger’s spoons are well-traveled by now. He remembers customers from Israel, England, Poland, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and most of the states. He says he doesn’t think that he’s sold a spoon to anyone from Nebraska.
If you would like to purchase one of Roger’s lovely creations, you can do so on the internet site, “Etsy.” Type in the following URL: www.alaskametalsmiths.etsy.com, and you will go directly to his collection.
Roger and Mary are members of a faith called “Brethren.” They do not proselytize; rather, they demonstrate their faith through example. From observing these two people, I would guess that the Brethren are family-oriented, peace-loving people, kind to all and happy to lend a hand when needed. They treat all people with respect and are soft-spoken, not argumentative. They believe that love and caring are stronger forces than strife and anger. This description might not fit all Brethren, but it fits Roger and Mary Williams.