Rees, Paul D.
1903-2003 | Freight Agent, Alaska Railroad
Paul David Rees, born in Wymore, Nebraska on October 25, 1903, was the second of five children of Emma Rees, a widow. After completing the sixth grade, Paul quit school to work at a full-time job to help support his family, which included another brother and three sisters in addition to his mother, Emma. A few years later, his sisters arranged for him to start his education again at the eighth grade level. Paul, at the age of fifteen, was sent to live with his grandparents on their farm, located seven miles from Pleasantville, Iowa. He was reunited with his family in Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated from East Des Moines High School in 1925. He enrolled in Des Moines University but after attending classes for one year, left college and traveled to the west coast. In the fall of 1927, he arrived in Long Beach, California. Paul worked in a restaurant for a few months until he was hired by Union Oil Company as a gas station operator.
On October 11, 1929, Rees married LaNeva “Lee” Platt. Born in Pine Island, Minnesota on March 19, 1903, she was the daughter of Harvey and Minnie Platt. She grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the 1920s, she moved with her family to southern California, and was hired to work at a local dairy. After her marriage to Rees, their daughter, June, was born in 1930 in Long Beach. LaNeva “Lee” and Paul both had good jobs in California, but decided to seek a more adventurous life in Alaska. They drove their 1928 Chevrolet from Long Beach to Seattle, Washington, and then traveled by steamship to Alaska. After taking the train from Seward, they arrived in Anchorage on May 7, 1931. Soon after their arrival, Rees was hired as a freight handler by the Alaska Railroad. He worked for the Alaska Railroad for thirty-one years and held the position of freight agent and also worked in the accounting department. He retired in 1962 as commissary accountant for the railroad.
LaNeva “Lee” Rees was an animal lover and began a career of raising and mushing sled dogs and driving a dog team for her own enjoyment. Most of her dogs were of a matched quality and attracted attention wherever they went. She and her team were featured on the cover of Alaska magazine twice (in 1946 and 1967). They were often photographed on large post cards and Pic-Tour maps (which captured the matched team symbolizing early transportation by dog team), calendars, and on the covers of various magazines over a twenty-seven year period as an avid dog musher. They were also printed on numerous Anchorage Fur Rendezvous brochures. In 1967, in Alaska Sportsman, LaNeva Rees recounted her first experiences in raising a dog team, selling dogs to trappers and for racing teams, and traveling by dog team in the Anchorage and Palmer areas.
In 1933 Paul and Lee Rees built their first home at 9th Avenue and K Street and lived there until they required more space for the dogs. City growth and the construction of the original Providence Hospital at Ninth and L Street led the family in 1938 to move “out into the woods” (now 16th Avenue and Karluk Street), to a new location a mile from their nearest neighbor and two miles from downtown Anchorage. They bought seven acres of land from Paddy Welch, the owner of Southside Dairy, for $455. The acreage was located on a timbered bluff and had a good southern view. In 1940, they built a log home near 16th Avenue and Karluk Street.
Paul Rees was active in the Anchorage Masonic Lodge and the Anchorage Lions Club. He was Past Venerable Master of the Scottish Rite and was conferred as a 33rd Degree Mason in 1967. He was a long-time member of the Anchorage Lions Club. In 1996, he was awarded the Melvin Jones Award for outstanding dedication to the Lions. LaNeva “Lee” Platt Rees was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska, Auxiliary No. 4, Anchorage, and the Order of the Eastern Star.
LaNeva "Lee" Platt Rees died in Anchorage after a short illness on December 6, 1991. She is buried at Angelus Memorial Park, Anchorage. She will be remembered by old-timers as the first lady of dog mushing in Anchorage. In 2003, her dog sled, which was originally used to deliver mail in the Alaskan Bush, was donated by Paul Rees to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.
During the long winters, Paul Rees moved or "snow-birded” to his second home in Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona. He died on March 7, 2003, at the age of ninety-nine, in Mesa. His ashes were buried at Angeles Memorial Park, Anchorage, with the remainder placed at their former home site. They were survived by their daughter, June Rees Barker.
 Paul Rees, 1920 U.S. Census, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, Precinct No. 4, ED 40, page 1A, National Archives Microfilm Publication T625, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Roll 924, 1920 Federal United States Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 24, 2016).
 Jean E. Flynn, “Paul & Lee Rees, Chapter 1: Coming to Alaska,” July 31, 2004, 1-3, in Paul Rees file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK; and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 329-330.
 June Vance, Outline for LaNeva Rees, July 24, 1999, Paul Rees file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK; and obituary, LaNeva Rees, Anchorage Times, December 10, 1991, B-2.
 See, Lee Rees, as told to Mabel Holbrook, “Breaking Trail to Palmer,” Alaska Sportsman, May 1967, 11-13.
 Jean E. Flynn, “Paul & Lee Rees, Chapter 1: Coming to Alaska,” July 31, 2004, 5-6, in Paul Rees file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK; and obituary, LaNeva Rees, Anchorage Times, December 10, 1991, B-2.
 Typescript, biographical sketch of Paul Rees, April 18, 1995, Mesa, AZ, Paul Rees file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.
 Obituary, LaNeva Rees, Anchorage Times, December 10, 1991, B-2.
This biographical sketch of Paul D. Rees is based on an essay which originally appeared in John P. Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 329-330. See also the Paul Rees file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK. Photographs courtesy of the Rees family. Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012. Note: edited, revised, and expanded by Bruce Parham, September 24, 2016.
Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, ed., “Rees, Paul D.,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.
Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.