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Sunday, March 17, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Part Of Alaska Town's History Will Fade When Bar Owner Retires

AP

PELICAN, Alaska - Rose's Bar and Grill is almost too big a legend to fit in this tiny Southeast Alaska town. But there it is - just south of the center of town, Rose Miller's white building with pink trim, looking deceptively prim.

Inside Rosie's, as the bar is called, Canadian fishing-fleet captains have served drinks, couples have married, families have mourned the death of loved ones and women have danced in wet T-shirt competitions.

Those who fish the North Pacific waters have long come to this port. They know they'll find a well-cooked steak, a fiery shot of tequila and a quick-witted barkeeper with a penchant for wild parties.

"She's either famous or infamous, depending on which side of the Christian fence you're on," said Matt Donohoe, a longtime commercial fisherman who lives in Sitka and has visited Rosie's several times.

But at 62, Rosie's health and changes in the town of Pelican may mean the party is almost over.

Rosie wants to call it quits.

She hopes to sell the bar for about $250,000, and has been talking with potential buyers Don and Rose Harris, who own the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. The couple originally owned the bar and sold it to Rosie 23 years ago, said Bruce Legas, the saloon's general manager.

Rosie also noted that last month's closing of Pelican Seafoods plant, the economic engine for the company town, could hurt her business.

The stories - and there are many - about Rosie Miller and the

fishermen that crowd her bar each summer have made headlines around the globe, including the January 1995 German-language Playboy that Rosie pulls out.

She flips through the magazine, landing on a picture of her in the bar with a customer.

"Do you know German?" she asks, pointing to the caption below her picture. "I wish I knew what it said."

Born in Juneau, Rosie fell in love with Pelican when her damaged fishing boat was towed there in 1971. "It was beautiful - the scenery, the mountains, everything," she said.

In 1973, Rosie gave up her life as a commercial fisherwoman and made a down payment on the bar by selling her 62-foot boat.

Through the years, the bar has been a center for untamed partying, from her July 3 parties to celebrate the bar's anniversary, to Thanksgiving dinners, which always end in the traditional food fight, to the farewell bash she threw for workers laid off by the Pelican Seafoods processing plant.

She has fit a third of the 209-person town in her bar.

Rosie has earned a reputation for doing the work of four men, but she's slowing down. Her sister joked that Rosie now does the work of only two.

She also has earned respect from the other residents.

"Rosie has her wild parties when the fishermen want a wild party, but she's also raised 11 children and stepchildren," said Karen Diakanoff, a co-owner of the Lisianski Inlet Cafe. "If anyone ever needs help, Rosie will help them."

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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