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Alexander Winterbourne Brindle.

Alexander Winterbourne Brindle rose from humble beginnings as a mine-watchman's son to establish one of Alaska's top seafood processing enterprises, Wards Cove Packing Co. His gruff, hard-driving exterior, along with his business savvy, earned him high respect in the industry. But those closest to him all agree: His true nature was better reflected by his loyalty, generosity and integrity.

"He was a very basic guy," says longtime friend and associate John Gilbert. "He had no pretensions."

Better known as "A.W." or "Winn," Brindle was born in 1901 in Seattle, to English immigrant parents, Alexander and Marie Louise Brindle. He was still an infant when his family moved to the Native village of Kasaan in southeast Alaska. When he was 7, his mother insisted the family move to Ketchikan so that the Brindle children could attend school. Until then, Brindle spoke the Native Haida dialect more fluently than English. Brindle grew up the eldest of six children.

Ships docking in Ketchikan first sparked Brindle's interest in business. As a boy, he collected Seattle newspapers from the supply ships and sold them to locals who were eager for news from Outside.

With his three brothers, he hauled coal as a youngster -- an arduous task because many of the households in Ketchikan stood at the top of long flights of stairs. At one time, the brothers saved enough money to buy a boat and haul ore concentrate from copper mines on the Kasaan Peninsula.

When Brindle's father died, he became the man of the family. He and his brothers worked many odd jobs to help their mother make ends meet. June Allen, a local Ketchikan historian, says, "People around here said the Brindle brothers were the hardest-working boys you ever saw. It wasn't easy back then for a woman alone with all those kids."

As they grew up, Brindle and his siblings continued their business ventures as salmon fishermen in the Ketchikan area. They operated several fish traps in Southeast waterways. In 1928, Brindle and his brother Harold pooled their savings to buy a small cannery, located near Ward Cove in Ketchikan. They called their enterprise "Wards Cove Packing Co."

The company survived the Great Depression and in 1942, Brindle enlisted in the U.S. Army. He rose in rank to major and received the Legion of Merit for his service in the Aleutian Campaign.

Neither the Depression nor World War II dampened Brindle's spirit. He was instrumental in creating the Washington Fisheries Research Institute in 1946. As an investment in the industry, he helped establish and maintain financing for scientific research on Alaskan salmon resources.

The advent of Alaska statehood and impending elimination of fish traps made for uncertain times in the seafood processing industry. Despite risky conditions, Brindle led the company to further growth. In 1948, Wards Cove Packing Co. acquired Red Salmon Canning Co., one of the largest operations in Bristol Bay. Ten years later, along with the Columbia River Packers Association Inc., Wards Cove Packing Co. purchased the Alaska salmon canning operations of Libby, McNiel & Libby. This acquisition expanded the scope of the company into southeastern Alaska, Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet. Later, the company added Alitak, Port Bailey and Chignik to their operations.

Brindle's success continued during the 1960s and 1970s as the company expanded operations even further into Excursion Inlet, Haines, Hoonah and Kodiak Island. Although his stature in the industry grew, he felt as comfortable behind the controls of a dock crane as he did behind an executive desk.

"If you wanted to see the boss, you'd have to run him down," Gilbert says. "He'd be out working on the docks or running a forklift -- whatever needed to be done."

Brindle also invested his efforts in ventures outside the fisheries business. He was president of Tongass Trading Co., a retail store in Ketchikan. He was an early investor in the Baranof Hotel in Juneau and in banks in Sitka and Ketchikan. In 1934, he was elected director of Miners and Merchants Bank of Ketchikan. He became a director of National Bank of Alaska in 1960.

Brindle also helped establish the Alaska Chamber of Commerce and received its Outstanding Alaskan Award in 1969. The Alaska State Legislature created a scholarship in his memory.

Since his death in 1977, the family has continued Brindle's legacy. Wards Cove Packing Co. is still family-owned, and the company has continued to expand, entering into Alyeska Seafoods Inc. in 1985. Brindle's son Alec W. Brindle is president of Wards Cove Packing Co., and Winn Jr. is vice president of the company and the general manager for Alyeska Seafoods. Harold Brindle Jr. is vice president of operations in Bristol Bay.

In 1989, a permanent award-winning exhibit on the history of commercial fishing in southeast Alaska was mounted in the Ketchikan Historical Museum. Donors for the exhibit included fishermen from the Brindle companies, who gave money from their catches in tribute to their former bosses, including Winn Brindle.
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Title Annotation:Alaska Business Hall of Fame; owner of Wards Cove Packing Co., Alexander Winterbourne Brindle
Author:Johnson, Kaylene
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Merle "Mudhole" Smith.
Next Article:D.H. Cuddy.

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