Judge Roy Madsen of Kodiak passed away on Tuesday, December 26 at the age of 94.

From left to right: Jayson Smart, Marla Williams, Diane Kaplan, Judge Madsen, Kameron Perez-Verdia, Linda Madsen, and Angela Cox at the community premiere of Magnetic North: Judge Roy Madsen in Judge Madsen’s hometown of Kodiak. October 11, 2017.
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I had heard about Roy Madsen for many years before we had a chance meeting in his hometown, Kodiak. It turned out that his sister and my mother-in-law both spent some of their early years at the Woody Island Baptist Mission across Chiniak Bay. The next day, the two of us set off in Roy’s skiff for the island to visit the foundation of the long ago burned orphanage. Roy was well on his way to 90 at that time. We managed to land the boat in fairly rough water and took a slow hike to the site, a trip I’d repeat with my husband and kids a couple of years later. About two weeks after our meeting, a fat package arrived in the mail for my husband, Mel, who Roy had never met. Inside were childhood photos of Mel’s mom from the Mission archives. That’s the kind of man Roy Madsen was. A couple of years later we made a return trip with our mutual friend Sven Haakanson; Roy’s wife, Linda; Mel; and our kids. It was a wonderfully moving experience on a brilliantly sunny Kodiak day. We all felt special being in a Roy’s presence. His warm, friendly manner, great sense of humor, and great storytelling talent entertained and delighted us.

Roy was Alaska’s first Alaska Native superior court judge, and the ONLY one to this day. He grew up in a guiding family, meeting dignitaries from around the world who sought to hunt the Kodiak brown bear. He was a fisherman, attorney, leader in the Native land claims movement, pillar of the Russian Orthodox Church, and devoted family man—a handsome, kind, generous man who had that unique ability to make everyone he met feel important.

Rest in peace, my friend. You accomplished so much and touched the souls of so many.

Roy was featured in the Magnetic North series, a documentary film project produced in partnership with the Alaska Humanities Forum.