Y’all. Jenny Gore Dwyer‘s in the house!
She’s the owner and president of St. George Marine and the mom and mother-in-law of Sean and Bri Dwyer. Sound familiar? Here’s another hint: She is also the mom of Brenna Dwyer, who is the namesake of the F/V Brenna A, a well-known and loved vessel on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.
For the next several weeks, I’m posting an intimate Q&A with Jenny, and you’ll notice immediately what a beautiful writer she is. We’ll dive into her childhood in Alaska, her life as a wife and mother to commercial fishermen, and more!
Extra Credit: pop over her blog, Crabby Mama, to read more stories, watch videos onboard the Brenna A, discover recipes, and what life is like for the Dwyers on and off the Bearing Sea.
Without further ado, meet Jenny Gore Dwyer!
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Jenny! Please tell us where you’re from and how you met your husband, Pat.
I was born and raised in Ketchikan, Alaska. Ketchikan is an island in Southeast Alaska, and a typical year brings 13 FEET of rain! I am the middle daughter of Elinore Jacobsen and Robert Gore. I have two sisters, and as my Dad used to say proudly, or perhaps poignantly, “All cooks, no deckhands.”
My family history runs deep in Alaska. I can trace my roots to Captain John Gore. John Gore sailed with Captain Cook in Alaska’s waters, all the while looking for the Northwest Passage. I feel like the salt water, the wind, the rain, and stormy weather are part of my DNA.
I lived on Second Avenue, where some say there was a sense of magic there. It was a neighborhood filled with kids, dogs, station wagons, trucks, and a neighborhood nurse: my mom. That came in handy when we were playing, and someone stepped on a nail, fell off their bike, or had a stomach ache. The stomach ache was usually cured by eating all the fresh raspberries that grew alongside our house.
In the summer, the Second Avenue circus was formed and performed several different shows. We played “kick the can” for hours almost every night. Pretty much every kid in the neighborhood played. Once in a, while one of the grownup Hamilton girls would join in. That was the best. The kids I played with are still my friends today. I went to a Catholic grade school and attended grades 1-6 with the same core of 15-20 people. My Holy Name classmates are some of my oldest and dearest friends. When I was doing chemo for a rare cancer, they were part of my lifeline.
Moving on to junior high and high school, my friend group grew, and the activities changed. One of my best memories is riding on the back of a motorcycle. I had a major crush on the bike’s cute owner. I got in huge trouble for it from my mom. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the anger on her face. I learned then, don’t cross Mom. She told me, “Don’t ever get on a motorcycle.” Of course, Ketchikan being the small town it was, she found out I did ride, and I was put on restriction for a long time. But it was worth it.
Ballet, band, choir, drill team, and pep band were the activities that filled my days. As a child, a teen, a college student, a mom with kids, and now as a widow reflecting upon life, summer days are spent at Bugge Beach (now Rotary Beach). It’s where I go to collect myself, reflect, and re-energize.
(Oh. By the way, you may have caught that I am a widow—more on that in a bit.)
Growing up on an island surrounded by the rain forest’s beauty with my family and friend’s love’ rooted me. It gave me a strong sense of security, and it taught me that when you grow up in a small town, be kind because everyone knows who you are, and you will get caught at some point!
As we grew older, summer days were for working, and many of the Second Avenue kids could be seen walking down the hill to work. We worked on the slime lining, cleaning fish at one of the local fish processors. It was there I learned how to work hard, learned how to get yelled at by the owner, and earned money to go to college.
At first, I went to college but ended up at cooking school. Political Science, English, and Speech were my favorite classes. But once the boat cooking gig became part of my summers, the cooking school became my passion. As I told my kids, Don’t follow my example. I went to college for five years and ended up with a 2-year cooking degree! But things always have a way of working out.
Well. Some things.
But in this instance, cooking school led me back to Ketchikan, and it led me to a boat cooking job, where I met my Pat. The guy that, when I looked into his twinkling blue eyes, I could see my future. It was him.
We met on the deck of the F/V Lynda. The owner/captain was a family friend, and he was looking for a cook for the summer. As anyone who has spent time working on the water knows, it gets in your blood. You become tethered to the smells and sounds, and they pound through your body, your veins, giving you life. As the salmon season crept closer, the yearning to be on the water, to be a part of a working crew, was pulling at me in a very strong way. After meeting with the Captain in the wheelhouse and learning I would have the job as a cook, he asked if I wanted to meet the crew—a couple of boys from Seattle, Pat, and Phil. I said, Sure.
As I walked on the deck, Pat and his brother Phil worked on the fish pump. It was then that the blue eyes, the handsome smile, and the world’s bushiest mustache entered my life and locked me in. We had a great summer. I was the cook, and Pat was the engineer. We spent days working side by side, and the nights we had off, dancing in the bars.
By the end of the summer, when it was time for Pat to go back to Seattle, I may or may not have followed him there!
Three months later, we moved in together.
Six months later we bought a boat.
Three months later, we became engaged.
Working around the fish schedule, we married in January of 1987. Three months after our wedding, we took off for Alaska, ready to run with the herring and salmon! We had one other crew member with us—one of the kids from Second Avenue that I used to babysit. The three of us left and took off for an adventure.
We started on the herring grounds outside of Ketchikan and worked up to Nome, Alaska, following our fisherman. Summer was spent in Prince William Sound tendering salmon.
We were young. We were in love. And we had, what we thought, was the best job in the world. Life was good. It was a six-month endeavor, and we embraced it along with the new people that filled out lives; tenders, captains, fishermen, cooks, and deckhands.
I think my Dad was proud that his middle girl was a cook and a deckhand. Ketchikan girls with deep roots are tough like that.🐟 (READ PART 2 HERE!)
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