Pioneer Park bench honors volunteer | Kris Capps

FAIRBANKS — A new bench honoring Jack Williams is now in the perfect spot at Pioneer Park, overlooking one of his finest achievements — the restored Sternwheeler Nenana.

A crowd of old friends and supporters gathered this week to dedicate the bench to Williams, who died in July 2014 at age 82. Williams devoted many years to restoring historical projects at the 44-acre Pioneer Park. 

A plaque in front of the black wrought-iron bench says: “In memory of Jack Williams, a moving force in the fund-raising and volunteer efforts that produced major restorations of Kitty Hensley House, the Harding Railroad Car, the Lavelle Young wheelhouse and the Sternwheeler Nenana, all in Pioneer Park.”

The special bench had been in the works for several years and was unveiled on a beautiful summer evening last Thursday. Nancy Williams slipped the cover off the sign, created by pioneers, and told the crowd, “This was his pride and joy, the beautiful riverboat sitting there.”

Jack Williams was involved in many restoration projects  at Pioneer Park. He even helped bring the carousel to the park, which is often the highlight of a visit by youngsters.

But the sternwheeler was a key focus for Williams. The ship had been piloted upriver to Fairbanks and sold to the Centennial Year (1967) Planning Group. The group renovated the interior to accommodate a restaurant, got rid of the staterooms and altered the cargo deck for visitors.

Pioneers and the community dove in to help with restoration costs. A nonprofit group called The Historical Preservation Foundation was created to  manage donations and grant funds. Williams was a founding member of that foundation.

Renovation began in 1987 and the “Last Lady of the River” was declared a National Landmark in 1992, in large part due to the efforts of…

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