Harold L “Joe” Gilbertson passed away Thursday night, Jan. 15, 2015, with his son by his side.
Born Dec. 13, 1936, to Harry and Gladys on the coal branch in Edson, Alberta, he was the second of nine children and the first son. He had six sisters and two brothers.
In the early ’50s, with the military base buildup in Alaska, his father came north in search of work. The rest of the family worked to save enough money to follow a few years later. After arriving in Alaska, they settled in Delta Junction.
Joe met his wife, Judy, there while her dad was stationed at Fort Greely. Her dad was transferred to EI Paso, Texas, where she graduated from high school. Joe and Judy were married there on May 20,1959. He bought a Ford pickup (with no heater), and the newlyweds headed north to Big Delta. There, they started their family with their son, Mervin, born in 1960, and their daughter, Verla, born three years later. Joe ran the Delta Texaco station in those early years and got to know all the truckers running between Valdez and Fairbanks. This would be the career he would pursue. He and some partners started Delta Motors in the late ’60s to haul fuel from Anchorage to Fairbanks via the Glenn and Richardson highways in support of the Hercs flying oilfield supplies to Prudhoe.
Moving to Fairbanks in 1971, he drove the Alaska Highway for Lynden, hauled pipe from Valdez for AI Rink and drove the Hickel Highway to the pipeline camps being built. During the pipeline construction, Joe drove for Sealand. He met Byron Burge there and began a lifelong friendship and working relationship. After the pipeline, Joe, along with Dick Randolph, was able to get an initiative on the ballot deregulating the trucking industry within the state of Alaska which passed with overwhelming support.
Joe started Big State Equipment and then Big State Logistics which today has terminals in Valdez and Fairbanks and employs 90 people.
Joe’s wife Judy passed away in 1995, and in 1999 Joe had a stroke. Months before Joe learned of the love and forgiveness God has for him and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior. After Joe’s stroke, he met Chris and Walter Warner, who, as his health failed, would care for him for years to his final days. Joe is survived by his son, Mervin, daughter Verla and granddaughter Niki.
Joe will be remembered as he told Byron and Mervin just weeks before his passing, and reminded Chris often, “He’s the boss.”
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at Big State Logistics truck shop