In Memory of James E. Bitney
James Earl Bitney, longtime Alaska educator, outdoorsman, dog trainer and beloved son, brother, father and grandfather, passed away on October 29, 2022. He was 80 years old.
Born at Fort Rucker, Alabama, on September 18, 1942, to Woodrow "Bud" and Irene Bitney, James grew up in northern Wisconsin being active in Boy Scouts, swimming and fishing for brown trout in the local brooks and streams.
After high school, he enlisted in the Navy and served on Guam as a photographer and film processor for reconnaissance aircraft.
He then returned to Wisconsin to marry the love of his life, Marilyn Lewis, from Spooner, WI, and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. They soon had a son, John.
James completed a bachelor's degree in education and was hired in 1967 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for a teaching position in Alaska. After spending a few weeks in Fairbanks to obtain his BIA teaching certificate, James spent the next year and a half with his young family as a teacher in Mountain Village on the lower Yukon River. During that time, he fell in love with Alaska and the culture of Alaska Natives.
In 1969, James returned to River Falls for post-graduate studies in education. During this time, he was blessed with the birth of a second son, Jay, and a daughter, Jenna.
By 1971, James had completed a master's degree and longed to return to Alaska. He was hired by Matanuska-Susitna School District to teach reading at Talkeetna Elementary. The following year, he was promoted to the position of principal at the school.
Over the course of his career, he was a school administrator and classroom teacher across Alaska in Manokotak, Palmer, Skwentna, Point MacKenzie and Big Lake. He was a staunch advocate for education and took great pride and interest in all the students at his schools.
After retiring in 1998 from his teaching career, James became an Alaska licensed assistant hunting guide. He was an avid Dall sheep hunter, and successfully guided many hunters in pursuit of grizzly bears.
He enjoyed training black Labrador retrievers and competed for many years in licensed American Kennel Club (AKC) field trials.
In the final months of his life, he moved to Pflugerville, Texas, to be close to his youngest granddaughter.
He was known for being talkative with everyone he met about his hunting adventures, his dogs and bragging about his three children and two granddaughters.
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, three children, John, Jay & Jenna, and two granddaughters, Briana & Peyton. He is also survived by his sisters Jane Pederson, Jackie Smith, Joann Bitney and brothers, Tom Bitney and Mike Bitney.
He was preceded in death by both parents, Bud and Irene Bitney, and by his sister Judith Fox.
No services are scheduled at this time.