Leaving a Legacy
Don Young brought construction funding; Nottingham, Wilson, and Miley helped build Alaska with it
By Rindi White
Don Young
Don Young, Alaska Representative from 1973-2022. US Congress official portrait.

S Representative Don Young, who proudly called himself “the Congressman for All Alaska,” died March 18 at age 88 while he was traveling home to Alaska. He leaves behind a long history of service to Alaskans and to the Alaska construction industry.

As the lone congressman for Alaska and the longest serving member of the US House of Representatives, Young held many positions of power in his forty-nine years in Washington D.C. He chaired the House Natural Resources Committee from 1995 to 2001, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2001 to 2007, and held several other positions of power, including Dean of the House. He was reelected to the seat twenty-four times.

Young was born in Meridian, California, in 1933. He grew up on a farm and earned an associate degree at Yuba Junior College in 1952 and a bachelor’s degree in teaching at then-Chico State College in 1958. He served in the US Army’s 41st Tank Battalion from 1955 to 1957. He moved to Alaska in 1959 with a plan to drive dogs, catch fur, and mine gold. He met his first wife, Lu, not long after moving here and, according to many reports, she encouraged him to enter politics. He did that, serving as mayor of Fort Yukon in 1964 and then in the Alaska House of Representatives in 1966, where he served two terms and was elected to the Alaska Senate. He ran for US House in 1972 and lost to Democratic incumbent US Representative Nick Begich, who three weeks prior to election had been on a plane that went missing. Young won a special election to Begich’s seat in March 1973 after Begich was declared dead in December 1972.

Young was known for being cantankerous and prone to making off-color statements. But he worked hard for Alaska and fought for what was important to him, often crossing party lines to do so. He was known for bringing federal money home to Alaska, often in the form of construction projects. According to coverage in the Anchorage Daily News at the time of his death, he counted it as a career highlight that, during his first year in the House, the bill allowing construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System passed. That bill changed the course of history for Alaska. He took fire for so-called pork barrel spending projects such as the Gravina Island Bridge from Ketchikan to its airport on Gravina Island, and the Knik Arm Bridge, both intended to develop road infrastructure for Alaska, which missed out when much of the rest of the nation’s interstate highway system was developed, prior to Alaska’s statehood. Although those two projects failed to secure funding, Young was responsible for bringing home hundreds of millions more over the course of his career. A few months before he died, he was part of a group of thirteen House Republicans to break ranks and vote with Democrats for the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which holds more funding for Alaska per capita than for any other state.

In recognition of his outstanding service to Alaskans and to the Alaska construction industry, Associated General Contractors of Alaska bestowed its Hard Hat award, the association’s most prestigious award, given to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the Alaska construction industry, on Young in 2017.

“It is an honor to receive this award and join such a prestigious group of Alaskans that continue to contribute to their communities. Thank you to all of the hard-working men and women that make this industry so successful,” Young said at the time.

In Memoriam
Dennis Nottingham
William Dennis Nottingham, co-founder of PND Engineers, Inc., died March 6 at age 84. Nottingham was buried at Carter Cemetery in Carter, Montana, where he often donated his time and resources during retirement to maintain the cemetery’s upkeep.

Nottingham was born in Fort Benton, Montana, in 1937 and became one of the state’s most influential engineers. He joined the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2015 and won the prestigious NOVA Award from the Construction Innovation Forum, Inc. in 1998 for his OPEN CELL SHEET PILE bulkhead technology. Since Nottingham developed the OPEN CELL technology in the early ‘80s, PND has designed more than 200 systems using the technology, with installations across the US and around the world.

Nottingham graduated in 1959 from Montana State College (now Montana State University) with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering and earned his master’s the next year. He moved to Juneau in 1962 to take a job in the Alaska Department of Highways’ bridge design section. There, he met Roy Peratrovich Jr., the department’s bridge design section squad leader. The two became fast friends and designed bridges together, including notable bridges such as those spanning the Yukon and Gulkana rivers and Hurricane Gulch. The Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame credits Nottingham with more than 300 bridge designs in Alaska.

Peratrovich and Nottingham founded PND in 1979 in Anchorage, seeking people who were well educated and excelled in creative problem solving and looking at things with an open mind. He retired from PND in 2009, having served as president for thirty years.

Nottingham received AGC of Alaska’s Hard Hat award in 2004 and voiced his great respect for the “skilled tradesmen” who brought his designs to life.

William Dennis Nottingham
William Dennis Nottingham, co-founder of PND Engineers, Inc.

Photo courtesy of PND Engineers, Inc.

Marie Wilson
Marie Wilson and her husband, Richard Wilson, operated longtime AGC of Alaska member company, Warning Lights of Alaska, Inc., since 1969. The company initially operated from a small shop on their residential street in Anchorage and eventually grew into a successful, nationally known enterprise.

Wilson was born November 11, 1936, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She married Richard Wilson in 1955 and the couple moved to Alaska the following year. Wilson received the Hard Hat award from AGC of Alaska in 1998 and served as AGC of Alaska’s board president in 2002, only the second woman to do so at the time. Longtime AGC members might remember Wilson from her appearance in many fun skits held during the AGC of Alaska Annual Conference Dinner/Dance, including “My First Big Dance,” “The Case of the Missing Hard Hat,” and “Gilligan’s Island.”

Outside of her commitment to AGC of Alaska, Wilson was a pioneering member of churches in Anchorage and Wasilla. She helped maintain church grounds and prepared countless meals, taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and helped her church communities in many other ways.

Marie Wilson and her husband Richard
Marie Wilson and her husband Richard, owner/operators of Warning Lights of Alaska, Inc.

Photo courtesy of AGC of Alaska.

Jay Miley
Longtime Marsh McLennan Agency principal Jay Miley passed away suddenly April 2. A celebration of his life was held June 4 at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Miley spent his early years there, then moved with his family to Addison, Michigan, where he graduated high school. Afterward he became a licensed pilot, then moved with his family to San Diego, where he became a boat captain and certified sailing instructor.

Miley partnered with his clients to provide surety advisory and solutions, working with Alaska Native Corporations and medium-to-large contractors with national and international portfolios. Miley had a solid background in construction and underwriting and enjoyed helping his clients support their business goals. His family said Miley loved his clients and was always thrilled to be a part of their success.

Jay Miley
Jay Miley, longtime principal of Marsh McLennan Agency.

Photo courtesy of Marsh McLennan Agency.