Bill Sirois was fairly typical of a young boy growing up in Northern Minnesota in the 1970’s – he loved to fish, hunt, play hockey and spend time outdoors. Growing up in International Falls and a cabin on Rainy Lake it was the perfect place to pursue his passions. And, he had family and friends who shared that passion. After graduating from Falls High School in 1979, Bill wasn’t on the college track and worked with his dad at the local furniture store spending time on the lake and in the woods.
The lure of Alaska called to him and in the Spring of 1984, he and a friend went to Alaska where he spent the summer working on a large commercial fishing and processing boat. The hook was set and later that year he packed his truck and headed to Anchorage to pursue the Alaskan lifestyle where his brother and several other Falls’ natives had moved. He landed a job at the Anchorage airport re-fueling planes. It was there that he met Rose, a native Alaskan, who couldn’t resist the charming Minnesotan with the quick smile and big laugh. Rose, too, shared Bill’s passion of fishing and hunting and the two eventually married in 1989. They would spend a lot of time fishing halibut on the ocean, salmon on the Kenai River, hunting deer and moose, and numerous outdoor adventures. As Anchorage continued to grow, they sought a slower, quieter life and moved to the city of Kenai. Rose continued to work for the airline (commuting) while Bill worked a number of jobs to support their lifestyle. They also found time to build a remote cabin outside of Kenai where they visited whenever they could.
While they returned to Minnesota on rare occasions to visit family, in 2014 Bill’s dad encountered prolonged health issues and Bill returned to spend time with him. It was during this time that Bill began contemplating a full-time return. With the passing of his dad and step-mom in 2015, the course was set and Bill and Rose began planning in earnest. They both were able to retire in 2018 and in the Fall began the long journey home to Grindstone Island.
“As you get older, having to fight the dangers of ocean currents and tides takes a toll,” said Bill on their decision. “ It’s so laid back here and there’s so much to do. The timing felt right,” he added.
After settling in and taking on a number of projects on their new home that was built as a cabin in the 60’s and converted to a house in the 70’s, Bill and Rose prepared for their first “ice-in” on the island. For sixteen days they had to wait for enough ice to form before they could four-wheel off the island.
“We weren’t quite sure how we’d handle it, but it was great. It was quiet and we got out everyday for a walk on the island where we saw plenty of wildlife.”
Now they have a road plowed to their home from the mainland and they’ve begun snowmobiling and ice-fishing and re-connecting with neighbors and friends. What’s next?
“I’m looking forward to summer, for sure, but it’s been good so far,” said Rose.
One adjustment that they’re anticipating is the longer daylight in the winter, and , course, the shorter daylight versus the midnight sun of Alaskan summers.