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A Year On, BSAR Remembers The Life Of William “Gubby” Samuelson

On Saturday, November 17, friends, family, and Elders gathered at Bethel Search and Rescue headquarters to share memories and a meal in honor of the late William “Gubby” Samuelson.
Gabby Salgado


Over the weekend, Bethel Search and Rescue hosted a one-year honorary feast to celebrate the life of one of their own: the late William “Gubby” Samuelson. Family, friends, and community Elders gathered to share memories and a meal in Gubby’s honor.


On a drizzly Saturday afternoon, dozens of people packed into Bethel Search and Rescue headquarters, a small building tucked behind a thick row of alder trees.


“It’s been hard for all of us this whole year, and I know that we’ll still miss him,” said Earl Samuelson, remembering his brother William or “Gubby,” as he was affectionately known.


He talked about how Gubby was someone people would look to for answers when they were dealing with grief. Samuelson remembers his brother telling people that they had to go on with their lives.


“I know if he was still here he’d say to us, ‘get up and live your life,'” Samuelson said. “We have our memory of him; it’s in your hearts.”


Gubby was an important part of Bethel’s Search and Rescue operations, where he demonstrated a rare gift. During searches he could connect and communicate with people who had died, which helped him find and recover the dead. Earl Samuelson said that many people appreciated his brother’s gift because Gubby helped families find closure when their loved-ones disappeared. Earl believes that there are others who can do the same.


“And over time I think somebody around here from this area will probably gain that ability and hopefully use it in a positive way. I know there are people out there that can step up,” said Samuelson.     


Gubby also helped Search and Rescue in other ways. Former BSAR President Peter Atchak worked with Gubby in the organization’s early days.


“He would, in fact, didn’t like to be put on the roster list. He would rather come on his own and pay for his own gas and equipment, whatever, to help out,” said Atchak.


The Samuelson family gathered at the Bethel Search and Rescue headquarters on Saturday, November 17, 2018.
Credit Gabby Salgado / KYUK
The Samuelson family gathered at the Bethel Search and Rescue headquarters on Saturday, November 17, 2018.

Atchak said that Gubby always went above and beyond in a search. He would work behind the scenes, thinking critically about how to improve search and rescue practices.


“What he left us, you know, we’re going to carry on. Some of those ideas and ways Search and Rescue is now,” Atchak said.  


Beverly Hoffman grew up with Gubby and said he was a “fix-it person.” She also remembers his early, wilder days, and how over the years he became a vital fixture in the Bethel community.


“He helped a lot of people,” Hoffman said, “and that’s Gubby; wonderful guy. He was a character. I don’t know, what would you say? We’re not perfect, and Gubby wasn’t either, but he was a good man.”

Others, like Denise Tommy, spoke about Gubby’s faith.

“He had faith in God where there’s no bond that could break it,” Tommy said. “That’s what he always said.”


Peter Atchak summed it up for many attending the late William Samuelson's one-year feast, honoring the man many knew as “Gubby”.


“Gubby, we miss you. Quyana,” said Atchak.