John Searle Devens of Copper City, Alaska passed away on June 13, 2014 at the age of 74. He was born on March 31, 1940, in Shickshinny, Pa.
Mr. Devens had been the mayor of Valdez, Alaska, a city of about 4,000 people, for about five years when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on March 24, 1989, releasing nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sound, one of the nation’s most pristine fisheries and wildlife habitats. It was the worst oil spillin American history at the time.
He graduated from Belmont College in Nashville and later earned a doctorate in audiology from Wichita State University. By the early 1970s, he had moved his family to Alaska, where he held several jobs, including traveling to remote villages to administer hearing tests.He moved to Valdez to become the president of Prince William Sound Community College. After the spill, he became the president of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.
Besides his daughter Jerilyn, he is survived by another daughter, Janis Reynolds; two sons, John and James; 12 grandchildren; and his former wife, Sharon Devens.