This story is the first of two about Jack Lesh, one of our oldest Gustavus residents.  This first part covers his life up to 1965, when he and his family moved to Gustavus. The second part will be about Gustavus, and Jack’s life here.  Read on and enjoy!

Jack Lesh was born in Chicago in 1922, the first-born in his family.  At age two, he moved with his family to Berwyn, IL, a suburb west of Chicago.  He lived there until he graduated from 8th grade.  Then they all moved to Oak Park, IL, because the town had a much better high school.  When it came time for college, his folks didn’t have much money.  Jack enrolled in Antioch College in Ohio for 6 months until he ran out of funds.  He then worked for 6 months and earned enough to go back to college for a year.

Antioch held their school year all year, in 10-week divisions.  The students would go to school for 10 weeks; then to a job for 10 weeks, giving students experience in doing a job in an unfamiliar place.  Personnel would find the jobs for all the students in the program, with the purpose of teaching them to be on their own.  Jack liked having the work experience part of the curriculum.  It gave him a chance, however small, to earn some money while in school.

Jack’s going to Antioch turned out to be a pivotal point in his life.  Of course, one reason was because he met Sally Townsend, who became his lifetime partner, while there.  It also had to do with Antioch itself.  Jack enrolled there because the tuition was more affordable than at other schools.  He did not realize until he spent time there that his core beliefs and developing world view meshed beautifully with Antioch’s philosophy.

The college was founded on the belief in social and gender equality.  The school was the first United States college to designate a woman as full professor.  They fostered independent study and independent thinking.  According to Wikipedia, Antioch believed in the development of the individual as a whole.  Thus, the students’ work/study experience gave them a chance to take care of themselves in a new environment.  Students were expected to achieve educational goals through programs designed to create social change.  They were given a great deal of responsibility for shaping their own education, with course-work being collaborative and experiential.

Jack reminisced to me about Antioch.  He said they did not participate in major sports leagues, nor did they have fancy dress-up dances, such as proms.  The school did participate in sports as part of their physical education program.  Each floor of the dorms was a separate “house.”  Each house had its own team.  Also, as someone had donated a large tract of forest adjacent to the campus, it provided a place for hiking and bicycling.

Academic quality at Antioch was very high, and completely run on a spirit of honesty.  Students took final exams to their rooms to complete.  They were assumed to be honest.  Jack found the spirit of trust in the students to be very refreshing.  A great deal of camaraderie, existed between students and teachers, as there was more fraternizing between them than at other schools.  Students and teachers got to know each other well, so the relationship was comfortable.  A general idea prevailed that we are all searching for something.  We are all equal, with no difference between faculty and student.

As part of his work-study program, Jack did two jobs with Arco Paint Company.  The first one was in the mail room.  Next, he worked as an assistant in the paint lab, which developed special paints, commercially produced for certain kinds of use.  At another  job, he worked half-time at the campus coffee shop, which he managed.  As luck would have it, Sally came to work for Jack.  At closing, they had to clean up, so they would turn on the nickelodeon and dance.  In 1942, they  married, and danced together for many years.

In 1943, Jack got drafted, and took his army basic training.  When this training was completed, the army did not need any more infantry in Europe, so Jack was enrolled in a program that provided aptitude tests, followed by college classes.  Jack attended colleges in New York City for this program, including Fordham and New York University.  At the end of six months, the army again needed infantrymen.  He was sent to an army base in New Jersey, where he worked in a medical dispensary as a Physician’s Assistant.

As testing showed that Jack had an aptitude for medicine, he was sent to medical school for six months.  He attended Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York.  When the six months ended, the war was over, and Jack was discharged while he was in school.

By this time the couple had two children, Mike and Pete.  Sally worked and Jack got the G.I. bill for money to help with college.  He finished medical school in New York.  For the last two years of school he worked as a med-tech in the hospital.

Jack graduated from medical school in 1949.  By now, he and Sally had their third child, Jonathan.  Jack did his internship at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI.  Interns got paid very little.  Because he had a family to feed, Jack interned at the hospital that paid the most.  He joined the Air Force as a lieutenant.  The Air Force paid for a year of internship in exchange for two years of service.  He did his two years immediately after he graduated, at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, WA.  When he was discharged, his debt was paid.

The Lesh family went to Falmouth, MA.  They liked the West, and would have gone to Sand Point, Idaho, but the doctor there did not welcome them, as his son would be working there soon, so another doctor was not needed.  Jack had heard of an opportunity in Falmouth, which he decided to check out.  He found two other doctors with different specialties, and they started a clinic, called the Falmouth Medical Association.  He worked in this clinic for 10 years.

Jack started at Falmouth as a General Practitioner, but every doctor practicing obstetrics had quit, because Jack said he would do these cases.  Also, the Air Force was short on physicians, so they would pay for dependents to go to a regular doctor.  Consequently, Jack became almost a full-time obstetrician, even though it was not his area of expertise.

Jack had always loved to sail.  In high school, he belonged to the Sea Scouts, who had a powerboat on Lake Michigan.  Through that contact, Jack met a gentleman in Chicago who had a sailboat that he chartered on weekends.  Jack served as a crewman for three summers and learned how to sail on Lake Michigan.

In Falmouth, Jack would rent a sailboat for the day when he had time off.  Sally would accompany him when she could.  One nice, sunny day Jack and Sally went sailing.  Jack asked Sally for a cigarette, and she said, “Didn’t you bring the cigarettes?”  No, Jack didn’t have them, so they went back home to get them.  This incident prompted then to quit smoking.

Jack’s mural

These days, Jack has a special sailing reminder on his living room wall, at the end of the room opposite his favorite chair.  Connie Edwards, our local health aide, had been painting and redecorating Jack’s kitchen.  Connie asked local artist Jess Mulligan to paint some sunflowers above a shelf.  They turned out so well that  Jack asked Jess to do a mural.  She painted a lovely scene showing serene water surrounded by lush nature, and in the center of the water rests a sailboat.  Its name is the “Lesh Go,” which was the name of the traveling school bus that brought the family to Alaska.  Jack says he always wanted to sail around the world, so now he can sit in his chair, look at that beautiful mural, and take an imaginary sail anywhere he wants to go.

Near the end of their 10 years in Falmouth, Jack accepted a patient who was single and pregnant, and who did sketches to support herself.  By then, the Lesh family included eight children.  The young artist, Zada Clark, sketched all eight of the children to pay her obstetrics fee.  Those eight drawings, now mounted in a single frame, hang on one wall of Jack’s living room.  The children in the drawings, from oldest to youngest, were Mike, Pete, Jonathan, James, David, Sally, Betsy, and Tom.

The children

The hospital was 20 miles away from Falmouth, so going to and from work involved a lot of driving.  Being on the beach, the town quadrupled in size in the summer, going from  8,000 to 30,000 residents.  Jack and Sally started thinking about a western move.  They decided Alaska was the Far West, so they planned a trip there.  Of course, they would have to go North for a long way before they went West, and they had to traverse most of Canada first.  They bought a school bus and refurbished it and left for Alaska in 1959.  They had thought about coming earlier, but Sally refused to make the trip until the last baby was out of diapers.  The bus migration included Jack, Sally, and the eight children.

The family traveled in the school bus because it was affordable, and the only solution they could find for moving a big family to Alaska.  No way could they pay to fly 10 people here!  No car was big enough to hold everyone.  So they made a shopping trip to Boston, where they found several buses to choose from in a used car lot.  They bought the used school bus.  Jack’s oldest son, Michael, and Jack remodeled the vehicle for the trip.  They took out most of the seats and built shelving for storage.

The remodelers also made a teepee.  Sally made a cover for it out of canvas.  As the school bus had been used as a “band bus,” it was equipped with a large rack on top for all the musical instruments.  The teepee and poles rode up there, along with the family canoe.  At night, once a camping spot had been selected, the boys would put up the teepee.  They became very good at this job; they would have their bedroom set up in a few minutes.  All 5 of the older boys slept in the teepee.  Sally, Jack, and the baby slept in a small tent.  The two young girls slept in the bus.

They drove the Trans-Canada Highway, the main artery East and West across Canada, from Montreal to Alberta.  This road was paved.  From Alberta to British Columbia, they took the Yellowhead Trail.  This section of road was not paved, and provided an adventurous segment of their journey, as it was a one-lane road, used frequently by logging trucks.  When they met one of these, they would have to back up to one of the frequent turn-outs provided.  There was only one settlement on this entire stretch of road.

The trip took them 60 days, from Falmouth to Juneau.  On the first part of the journey, they made steady progress, but when they got to British Columbia, they would find a place they liked and camp for several days.

On the second or third day of their trip, they were in a state park in Ontario.  A river ran through the park, parallel to the road.  The river drained into a lake where they would camp for the night.  The ranger there assured them that the river was a very calm one, so they took the canoe off the bus, and Jack and Dave, then about 6, took the canoe down the river while Sally drove the bus to the camp.  Jack and Dave had not gone far when they hit some fast-flowing rapids.  The canoe overturned, throwing Jack and little Dave into the water.  Jack grabbed his son and the two made it to safety.  They retrieved the canoe and returned it to the water below the rapids.  However, Jack lost his camera to the river.  When they again saw the ranger, they scolded him for not telling them about the rapids.  “Oh, I forgot about that first little bit,” he said.

On a side trip through a Canadian national park, they saw a sign alongside the road, pointing to an uphill trail.  It said, “Typical Mountain Sheep Habitat.”  They got out and looked up where the sign pointed.  About 20 yards away, a sheep stood on a rock and looked down at them.  Those Canadians sure know how to post accurate signs!

If you would like to read more about the Lesh family trip in the school bus, look for Sally Lesh’s book, Lunch at Toad River.  It’s a good read.  Sally also wrote another book titled  All My Houses, which outlines her history by following the trail of houses she lived in over the years.

When they finally arrived in Alaska, they liked it, and drove almost everywhere they could drive.  Homer appealed to them, except the doctor there had someone else in mind for his clinic, and did not want them there.  They stayed for a while in the Eagle River Campground.  A neighboring family at the campground came from Juneau, and suggested they go there.  The Leshes had read an article in the Alaska Sportsman about Gustavus, showing a picture of the inn and cows in the foreground.  The city of Juneau was not far away.  So Jack flew to Juneau, where he interviewed at two clinics.  Both of them offered him a job, so he took one of them, and the family moved.  While living in Juneau, they visited Gustavus and stayed at the Gustavus Inn.  Jack wanted to work there, but didn’t know how they could afford to live there.  So, he worked at the Juneau clinic for two years.  The doctors at the two clinics had an antipathy toward each other, which created an unpleasant atmosphere.  Jack didn’t want to be part of it, so he quit the clinic.

Then, the Health and Welfare Department in Juneau hired Jack to serve as their medical person for all of Southeast Alaska.  He worked on 2 federal programs:  Maternal and Child Health, and Crippled Children’s Services. Being federal programs, they had a requirement that the employee had to have a Master’s in Public Health.  Jack had to go to Berkeley, CA, for 1 year to get this degree.  The whole family accompanied him.  Jack says that this new job was bureaucratic, requiring him to work in an office most of the time, and doing very little doctoring.

The Gustavus Inn

In 1965, drawn by that article they had read in the Alaska Sportsman, they decided to move to Gustavus.  They bought the Gustavus Inn.  However, they couldn’t survive on what they made from the inn at that time, so Jack spent four days a week at the state health department; then home again to do needed repairs to the inn.  After about four years, he quit working for the state.  For a time he covered the practices of doctors from other Southeastern towns when they went on vacation.  On one of these trips back to Falmouth to cover for a former partner, the whole family went along, and they bought a second school bus.  They wanted it to drive guests at the Gustavus Inn back and forth to the airport. Jack and two of the boys drove the bus back, and Sally and the other children flew home.  Jack quit his clinic work in the early 70s.

When they first bought the Gustavus Inn, it had 8 bedrooms.  Jack set one of them up as an examining room, buying doctor’s furniture from a man in Juneau.  He put out the word that he was open for business.  At the time, Gustavus only had about 50 residents.  After having his office open for three months, Jack had seen only two or three patients.  It turned out to be more lucrative to rent the room as a bedroom.

Jack told me that he loved practicing medicine, but he didn’t want to live in a city to do so.  After the Gustavus move, he drifted out of his medical practice because he had found the place where he wanted to live and a lifestyle that brought him happiness.

“To what do you attribute your long life?” I asked Jack.  “Part of it is because I’ve inherited good genes,” he answered.  “My mother lived to age 93.  I believe your emotional attitude is important, too.  I have a zest for living and I am happy.  I eat a healthy diet and lead a physically active life.”

We are glad you brought your family to Gustavus, Jack.  You are an inspiration to us all!


After asking Kathy Hocker if I could interview her for this blog, I realized that writing about her would be a challenge.  She has so many talents!  How could I do justice to all of them?

Then we did the interview, and I discovered that it would be easy to cover all her talents because she uses them to create the whole of who she is and what she does.

Kathy’s field is science; her college major was forest ecology.  During the interview it became clear that she has her feet firmly planted in the natural world.  Every one of her varied talents — art, writing, editing, teaching — become tools she uses to enhance her commitment to the observation, study, and understanding of the world we live in.  Her singing weaves it all together.

Kathy Hocker was born in Las Cruces, NM in 1968.  After three years the family moved to Edinburgh, Texas, at the very southern tip.  When Kathy was six, they all moved to Juneau.  Kathy has been in Alaska ever since, except for college and a brief time in California.

She went to Harvard, where she majored in forest ecology.  She was interested in biology, and hoped to find her niche there.  She got a bachelor’s from Harvard (they call it an AB.)  She really wasn’t excited about a master’s in science, but she realized that the path that made her happiest was the one that allowed her to share the beauty and poetry of science.  She explains as follows:

1.  She sees science as a way to understand the world, calling it a natural and elegant function of our psyches.  She says that the  fundamentals of science flow in our consciousness.

2.  It is her belief that science reveals beauty.  She says, “Even during field work, you are in the middle of a wonderful opportunity to notice things of beauty.  Being in a very careful state of observing leaves you open to seeing, hearing, and experiencing the beauty around us.  There is beauty in the fundamental nature of the universe.  You can see lovely symmetry, balance, and interconnections between all things.”

In 1992, Kathy went to California, where she taught at an environmental school.  Several counties in the state have outdoor facilities with cabins.  She worked with students who were all from schools in Shasta County.  The program was based in Whiskeytown, California, near Mt. Shasta.  Kathy took these fifth and sixth graders on hikes where she would teach them about natural history.  She worked with each group of students for one week.  There were enough schools in the county to allow her to teach classes for the entire school year.

In the natural history classes, Kathy taught concepts, but, more important, she taught students how to be, out in the natural world:  to look and to listen.  They did hands-on activities.  For example, they would be blindfolded and would go through a section of forest, just using their hands to find the way.  Also, each student would learn one thing, such as the name and use of a plant, and on these hikes, would teach the other students what they had learned.

They took night hikes without flashlights.  The first order of the night would be to overcome their fears.  They would be scared, giggling to cover their nervousness, or very quiet.  Some would say, “I can’t do this.”  In time they would come to the realization that there was nothing out there to “get” them.  They just observed another face of nature.  When the hike was finished, they were proud of themselves for their accomplishment.

Commonly,  foxes, owls, and bats occupied their night world.  Students learned to identify animal sounds.  Listening to the owls was a treat.  The area was inhabited by great-horned owls and long-eared owls, among others.  Grey foxes at night made a bark/screech that was downright spooky at first, until they learned what made the sound.

The only dangerous encounter in the camp was with a rattlesnake that was found in the boys’ bathroom.  They removed it with a snake noose — a pole with a loop at the end.  The loop was guided around the snake and then pulled tight.  The snake could then be lifted and carried someplace far away.

A most important happening occurred while she taught there.  She met Cheryl Cook, who is from the San Diego area and who was also teaching there in 1992.  Cheryl played guitar and sang, and soon the two started singing together.  It didn’t take long for them to gain their first audiences — the students they taught.

When the teaching year was finished, the two returned together to Juneau.  Kathy taught Environmental Education in Juneau in the mid-90s, for a program called Discovery Southeast.  Through this program, she became the resident naturalist at Mendenhall River School, a position she held until 1996.  As naturalist, Kathy had classes of third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders.  Each season she would do a unit with each class, which included a couple hours of classroom time and field trips.  They studied aquatic animals, insects, birds, animal tracks, and land forms.

In 1994, the couple got an introduction to living in Gustavus by building a cabin.  Kathy’s mother and father owned land here, so Kathy and Cheryl built a cabin on their property.  The groundwork was laid for their eventual move here.

Even though Kathy’s major was science, she never let go of her desire for an involvement with art.  She went to Fish and Game and showed them some of her drawings.  They needed some illustrations for a publication and hired her to draw them.  At a chance meeting with her middle school art teacher, Kathy mentioned that she had just been working on these drawings.  Her teacher mentioned a graduate program in scientific illustration.  Kathy applied to the program at the University of California in Santa Cruz.  She was accepted, and she and Cheryl moved there.  It was a one-year program in Science Communication.  She could choose the science writing or the science illustrating track.  Though she had trouble choosing, she decided the art program would give her more skills and techniques.

After their return to Juneau, Kathy went back to working at Discovery Southeast.  She was still interested in scientific writing.  Internship for that program involved working with an interpretive design company known as Sea Reach, Ltd., based in Sheridan, Oregon.  She started illustrating for them; then she began writing interpretive materials.  Company projects range from making single interpretive signs to creating interpretive plans for parks, national forests, or visitor centers.  A lot of thought goes into what you experience in a visitor center.  An interpretive plan helps lay out what messages are communicated, and how those messages get communicated in an engaging and concise way.  Kathy travels for Sea Reach, maybe 4 times a year, either to their home office in Oregon or to projects already underway.  Just recently she went to Valdez to a Chugach National Forest visitor center to start the process of planning, writing, and designing new exhibits.

In the late 90s she started teaching drawing as a tool for observing and keeping nature journals.  Though she worked mostly with youngsters, she had some adult students as well.  Using drawing as a tool to develop powers of observation ties back to her California classes, which focused on how to draw, but also to learn more and connect more with the natural world.  Her classes in field sketching in California were her favorites, so she decided she wanted to teach the same thing.  Her mission in her classes is to help people understand that you don’t have to feel like an artist.  Far more important than what is on the page is what is inside you when you are drawing.  Kathy says, “There is a human tendency to categorize things, then feel like we’re done with them.  I like to delve deeper and observe what the creature is doing.  It is important not to pigeonhole a creature into a quick category, as you might miss some wonderful or important things.”

Kathy used the wren, a special bird to her, to illustrate how quiet observation of a creature’s activity can provide unexpected pleasure.  If you sit still and watch, very often the tiny wren will run across your feet.  Once Kathy was watching a small bird investigating the snowy landscape nearby.  A stick poked up from the snow, and next to it was a little tunnel where the snow had melted away from it.  The wren found the tunnel and went down it.  Kathy waited for some time for it to reemerge; instead, it popped out of the snow in another place.  It had dug its own tunnel through the snow to the surface.

Kathy likes to demonstrate, especially with kids, but also with adults.  She says, “Get them involved.”  As a standard first lesson, Kathy will draw a feather, then have the students draw one.  While she is drawing, she wants them to participate.  She will say, “Look at the feather.  What do you notice about its shape and color?  Plan out where we will start your drawing.  What should we draw first?”  The group usually says, “Start with the stem.”  Kathy teaches them some vocabulary:  “The stem of a feather is made up of the rachis and calamus. Look at the rachis,” she will say.  “Is it in a straight line?”

“No, the center part is curved.”

“Reach up with your finger and draw that curve in the air.”

Kathy will continue to involve them as she draws.  This technique is useful, because it removes their inhibitions.  The drawing becomes collaborative.  They are now part of the process.  Next they draw the feather on their own.

Her work took her to different places in the state.  She started in Juneau, beginning with community schools and elementary schools.  Finally, she taught courses at the University of Alaska.  From there, she was put on the state teaching artist’s roster, the Artist in Residence program.  She travels a couple of times a year to a different place in the state for this program.  The program gives her the opportunity to see more of Alaska and to experience more of the uniqueness of life here.  She has traveled by snow machine, lugging all her art materials, along frozen rivers.  She has taken a Yupik steam bath.  She has eaten Native foods, such as caribou, herring eggs, and seal oil.

In 2001, Kathy and Cheryl bought a house in Juneau, which they owned until 2015.  Cheryl started working summers at Glacier Bay as “Captain Cook,” running the day boat tour to the glaciers.  The two were in Gustavus just for the summers for a couple of years; then they sold their house in Juneau and moved to Gustavus in 2015.

In 2001, Kathy ran into a scientist, Mary Willson, whom she had worked for right after college, about 10 years previously.  They had not spoken much since that time.  In talking about birds, Mary mentioned that she was doing research on American Dippers — the small gray songbirds that nest along fast-moving streams and dive underwater for insects and little fish.  Kathy volunteered to help Mary out and ended up in a 10-year collaboration with her, working for her and with her during the study.  During the time they worked together, Mary published five scientific papers about dippers with Kathy as co-author, and she and Kathy wrote two books about the birds:  “American Dippers” and “The Singer in the Stream.”  Mary is now a dear friend.

For Kathy, an added bonus to her work is that much of it is done outside.  Working with Mary afforded her some unique adventures.  To get a close view of the nests of the dippers they studied, they often had to scramble around in steep stream canyons.  Once or twice, Kathy even had to rappel down cliffs or swim through streams.

While looking for dipper nests, Kathy and Mary discovered something quite rarely seen:  active nests of marbled murrelets.  These small seabirds are well-known to anyone who spends time on the water in Southeast Alaska, but their nesting habits are still somewhat mysterious.  They’re known to nest in old growth trees, many miles inland from the ocean — but what Kathy and Mary found were three murrelet nests on the ground, at the tops of waterfalls near Juneau.  They returned to the nests periodically to see the chicks as they grew from speckled balls of fuzz to handsome black-and-white juveniles.

A strain of beautiful music weaves its way through all that Kathy does.  She has been involved with music since taking piano lessons as a child, but was never very serious about it, until she met Cheryl.  When they moved back to Juneau, they joined song circles, and began performing in 1995.  Kathy says she learned to harmonize by copying the “Indigo Girls.”  She and Cheryl harmonize well together, partly because they have sung together for so long.  Kathy says she can (usually) hear the harmonies with Cheryl’s voice easily.

In Juneau, they performed at Gold Street Music, an invitational coffeehouse venue founded by a group of Juneau musicians.  One of the group was Elva Bontrager, a wonderful music catalyst who brings musicians together and helps them bring out their best.  Performers did 20-minute sets.  Kathy and Cheryl found the club to be a great musical venue that was available the rest of the year after Folk Fest.  They did sing at Folk Fest, but mostly with other people.  Now the duet sings on Thursday nights with the library band in Gustavus and at Lou Cacciopo’s “Outpost,” which has a musical night every other week.  Lou opened the outpost a couple of years ago — he lengthened his art studio, put in a stage, lights, and a nice sound system, and invited local musicians to perform.  Lou’s Outpost is “a non-profit music venue dedicated to building community and providing pioneering musicians with quality stage time in a nurturing atmosphere.”  (Watch future blog articles — Lou, an excellent artist in several mediums will be featured in one of them.)

Kathy started playing mandolin in early 2000.  Her dad sent her one, as he had started playing fiddle.  (Kathy wonders if perhaps he wanted to start a family band.)  Both Kathy and Cheryl like to perform, though Kathy feels her voice is not strong enough to sing solo.  She’s happy to have Cheryl’s strong voice to sing harmony with.  The duo selects songs or types of songs that suit their voices.  They have found that there is a particular set of vocal characteristics that blend well.  Cheryl has a particularly strong alto, so Kathy sings a high harmony.  They feel the message in the lyrics is important, but they also like to mix in funny songs.  Kathy and Cheryl have been together and creating their lovely music for 24 years now.  Kathy says that their singing together is symbolic:  they listen to each other and hold each other up.

Here’s a special treat:  a YouTube video made by another local Gustavian, Bill Eichenlaub, of Kathy and Cheryl singing at the Outpost.

Kathy’s art grows from her love of the natural world.  She creates cards, mugs, jewelry, sketches or paintings, collaborates with quilter Ellie Sharman of Gustavus, illustrates for children’s books, and writes books.  She also designed the wildlife tables in the Alaska State Ferry vessels, and did some of the illustrations.  Each ferry has the same tables in their dining area, though the Tustumena has a slightly different species assortment appropriate for Southwestern Alaska.

Kathy’s editing skills grew out of her work with Sea Reach, the company that does the interpretive signs.  She had to edit others’ work for the signs, and though not formally trained in editing, she has had quite a bit of experience.  She edited my last book and did a fine job.  She has also edited books for others in our writer’s group.  She feels that while she can be a strong editor (in part due to her experience at Sea Reach where the text gets edited extensively before going on an interpretive sign), she is learning how to balance that with keeping a writer’s unique voice.

For 13 years, Kathy practiced Shotokan (Japanese/Okinawan) karate, which she learned in Juneau.  She had an excellent teacher, Diana Stevens, who was the dojo’s chief instructor.  Diana won an AWARE “woman of distinction” award in 2011.  Kathy advanced in her karate training with a great group of people.  Through this teaching / practice she developed more physical strength and flexibility.  The practice emphasizes character and integrity.

When they can fit it into their busy schedules, Kathy and Cheryl like to travel.  They have been to Hawaii, Europe, South America, Ireland, Holland, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Chile.  Their travels have given them some unusual adventures.  In Holland, they bicycled through the Dutch polders (low-lying tracts of land enclosed by dikes) watching all kinds of fascinating European birds including kievits (lapwings) and gruttos (redshanks.)  Both of these are meadow birds common to that area.  In Hawaii while traveling the Kona Coast, they watched an octopus flash-change color and texture, and while travelling to the island of Innisheer, Ireland, they saw a basking shark.

They took a walking tour in the English Lake District, along the Cumbria Way.  The weather did not cooperate, but they were there and had to continue onward.  They slogged through rain, snow, sleet and wind.  They watched newborn lambs cavorting in the inclement weather, full of life and fun in spite of the unpleasant conditions.  It made the discomfort of the trail a bit easier to handle.

In Chile, they visited their friend, Mary Willson, at a research station she co-founded.  While there, Mary asked Kathy to teach a sketching class to a group of Chilean college students.  Although many of the students spoke better English than Kathy spoke Spanish, she decided to give it a go in Spanish.  She recalls that they were quite good sports about it; they chuckled sometimes at her stumbles but clearly enjoyed the lesson.  She remembers being particularly pleased when she made a joke in Spanish…and they laughed!

In 2012, after spending 20 successful years together, Kathy and Cheryl decided they needed a special celebration.  Cheryl was working on a whale-watching boat, and got the use of it for an afternoon.  They took 18 friends on the boat with them and took a tour around Lynn Canal in Juneau.  The Dall’s porpoises, being social animals, wanted to share the moment, so they joined the party and swam with the boat for a long time.  The couple felt that this moment with the porpoises was an anniversary gift from the Universe.

Kathy has a charming blog.  Visit it to see more of her drawing.  The address is  Also on this site is a link to her Etsy store.

Check it out!

Thank you, Kathy and Cheryl, for moving to Gustavus.  You make such a great addition to our community!


Back by popular demand, here is guest blogger Kim Papaw Warren, to tell you a new moose-hunting adventure.  Hope this story makes you laugh as hard as it did me!

I  went moose hunting again yesterday afternoon. In my area of Southeast Alaska, our season lasts one month and we are allowed one bull.  So far I had seen five bulls but no shooters.  (To be a legal “shooter,” a bull must have a spike or fork on one side or three brow tines on one side, or there must be a 50-inch spread between the extremes of the antler.)  As I approached the willow-covered muskeg I had chosen to hunt, I saw a cow watching me from about 300 yards away.  She continued to watch with mild curiosity as I settled under a spruce tree, levered a round in my Winchester Model 71 and got ready to start calling.  I sat unmoving for about 15 minutes to let things settle down.  The cow lost interest and moved on, grazing on the willow tips.

I started calling, doing my best to mimic a love-sick cow in season.  After the second series of calls, a bull stepped out of the woods on the other side of the clearing, paddles flashing in the late afternoon sun.  He was looking around, trying to locate me, or rather, the cow he thought I was, so I did another series of calls.  Immediately he zeroed in on me.  At over 300 yards away, I couldn’t tell if he was legal, and he couldn’t see me, as I was all decked out in my cammies.

Slowly I picked up my binoculars and watched him as he came around the perimeter of the clearing, moving obliquely in my direction.  When he reached a point closest to me, which put him about 75 yards away, he turned and headed across the clearing straight toward me, never once taking his eyes off me.  By now, I could tell that he wasn’t a legal bull, so I just sat unmoving and watched him come.

At about 100 feet we made eye contact, and he kept right on walking casually toward me making low grunting sounds.  Almost a cooing sound…he was sweet-talking me.  At 50 feet I began to get a little nervous.  At 20 feet I started talking to him.  “That’s far enough.  You don’t want to come any closer.”  I began waving my hands and continuing to talk to him.  “Don’t make me have to shoot you!”  He just kept coming, ignoring my now-frantic waving.  I tried not to be too demonstrative for fear of ruining my hunt, but the situation was now serious.

At less than ten feet he stuck his head under the spruce bough where I sat and stopped.  He just stood there, making low grunting sounds.  Sweet-talking me.   This bull was smitten!  He was in love.  I could have stood up and in two steps kissed him on the nose.  I know he must have thought I was the ugliest cow he had ever seen, but it didn’t seem to matter.  He wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer.

I started yelling at him and waving my rifle in his face.  This didn’t faze him.  I was the love of his life and he wasn’t going to give me up.  He decided on a different approach.  Slowly he circled around under my spruce tree and came up behind me.  I intensified my yelling and waving.  At this he very reluctantly began to move away.  I know he was thinking, “I’ll let her calm down a little.  I know she’ll come around.”

As he stood watching me from about thirty feet away, I quickly gathered up my stuff and began to walk away.  The bull followed me for a few feet, then stopped, broken-hearted, and watched me leave.  Looking back over my shoulder, I said, “Cheer up!  We’ve both lived to love another day.”


judy-c-1A woman of many skills, Judy Cooper has lead an interesting and active life.  She was born in 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.  When 18 she entered Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and received a B.A. from there, with a major in biology and a minor in art.  The summer she graduated she went to the Michigan State University Biology Station at Gull Lake, where she took biology courses.  She attended the University of Colorado in Boulder for 2 years, where she studied botany, zoology, chemistry, and geology.

In January, 1964, she took Peace Corps training and went to Bolivia for 2 years, where she worked with the Aymara Indians at 12,000 feet above sea level on the Altiplano.  Most of the indigenous people of the Andes were conquered by the Incas.  The Aymaras, however, joined the Incas, thereby retaining their own language and culture.  Judy was involved with a community development and preventative public health program, dealing with such diseases as tuberculosis.

After her return from Bolivia, she took a job for 2 years in North Carolina with a War on Poverty Community Action program.  While she lived there she had a brain hemorrhage and was taken by ambulance to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She was fortunate to have one of the best neurosurgeons in the country as her doctor.  When she recovered, she returned to her job and stayed until funding was cut.  Then she returned to Wisconsin and worked in a store until she had enough money to go to Alaska.

In 1968, Judy got her first Alaskan job in Hoonah, where she directed the Parent-Child Center.  This facility took in children from judy-card4birth to age 3.  Judy worked with the parents and the children.  After 2 1/2 years, she moved to Juneau, where she worked for Parks and Recreation in an after-school program for street kids.  Judy took them on camping trips and hikes, and they learned about appropriate behavior and safety in the mountains.

In 1972, Judy joined Local 941, Laborers International Union of North America, and went to Anchorage to learn how to do heavy construction.  As many workers had left to work on the pipeline, local jobs were available. She did jobs that were unusual for a woman.

Finally, Judy got a job on the pipeline itself.  She first worked with an insulation crew, claiming she is the only person who has ever crossed the Yukon River twice on her back.  She worked on the underside of the pipe, squirting sealant into seams.

Judy’s pipeline jobs were in Prudhoe Bay and North Pole.  On several jobs, she spent hours as a flagger, by herself in the middle of nowhere.  She played soccer with rocks to stay awake.  She also learned how to talk to the judy-card6ravens.  She and the raven would have contests to see who could make the funniest noises.

At North Pole, Alaska, Judy worked at the refinery as the only woman on a crew of 6, spending 8 to 10 hours a day unloading gravel from a dump truck into a wheelbarrow, then shoveling it into dish-shaped retainers around the oil storage tanks.  One man on the team remarked, “I never thought a woman could work so hard.”

The pipeline was finished in 1977.  Judy went on a cross-country ski trip, following Cliff Lobaugh, veterinarian for Juneau and the Yukon. They skied from a cabin on Atlin Lake to the Taku arm of Tagish Lake and back. judy-card5 Cliff, a big man, moved fast on his skis, and Judy couldn’t keep up, partly because she kept stopping to take pictures.  On such skiing trips, she always took a dog with her.  Finally, she hitched herself to the dog, and kept up easily.  On Tagish Lake, Cliff introduced her to a woman with a dog team, giving Judy a chance to see what mushing was like.  As the mushers like to say, “She caught the bug, and she was hooked.”

She bought a cabin in Tagish, Yukon Territory, spending winter months there and running sled dogs.  She started with 3 or 4 dogs, and went from being pulled by a dog while on skis (called “skijoring,” from a Norwegian word) to mushing.

Judy decided she would move to Fairbanks, so she could have a garden.  She settled in Two Rivers, close to Fairbanks, and known as the mushing capitol of the world.  While in Two Rivers, her dogs multiplied, until at one time she had 52 animals.  (As the number of dogs increased, it was harder to keep track of dogs in heat, so a couple of accidental litters pushed the total higher.)  She kept and trained all of them.  As the mushing trails started from her yard, she would take dogs on runs most days from the house, starting training in winter.  By early spring, they would have enough stamina to go on a long trip.  She would use a different team every day, 8 dogs to a team.  Thus they all got exercise.

Judy is fascinated with animal behavior.  She says, “to ask a dog to do something, you have to figure out how to motivate him.”  She loves dogs and loves raising puppies, and tries to train them all so they perform to the best of their abilities.  She worked up to running judy-card2them 10 to 18 miles a day.  Racing mushers would ask her, “How many miles do you have on your dogs so far?”  She didn’t keep track, because she had no means to measure distances.  She just kept working them until they reached their distance goal.

In March and April she took trips with a friend to the White Mountains, a BLM recreational area with cabins spaced a few miles apart.  They would rent different cabins so they could run the dogs between them.  Sometimes getting to places could be difficult because of the weather.  Creeks would be overflowing.  The trail was not flat, but slanted, and the sled slid off it sideways.  To counteract this slide, the musher had to stand on the uphill runner of the sled and lean uphill, much like on a sailboat.judy-card1

One winter, Judy and a mushing friend from Haines went on a trip to a small fishing resort on Tagish Lake.  The Haines friend brought her team and a basket sled, so Judy decided to use hers as well, instead of the toboggan sled, a decision she later regretted.  The toboggan sled has a large piece of plastic on the bottom, which allows it to ride on top of the snow.  The basket sled has narrow runners that dig into the snow.

The pair left from the town of Atlin at about 10:00 a.m.  They crossed Atlin Lake and then crossed the isthmus onto the Taku arm of Tagish Lake.  Everything looked fine when they started the trip, and Judy felt confident they’d get there with no problem.  She knew the route very well, since she had traveled it many times.

When they made it across the isthmus, the trail suddenly disappeared.  The wind had blown the snow into deep drifts, and no one had been over the trail since the storm.  Though weather conditions remained okay, the lead dogs struggled to break trail through the drifts.  After floundering in the snow for a long time, they became very tired.  The basket sleds didn’t help.  They were harder for the dogs to pull in the deep snow.  Judy would walk ahead for a distance to mark the trail, then urge the dogs forward.  They changed lead dogs, to give the original leaders a break.

Afternoon turned into a winter evening.  They couldn’t camp, as they had no cooking pots and no water for the dogs.  They couldn’t start a fire, as they had nothing resembling dry wood.  After some hours of travel, they realized they could not go back, as they had progressed too far, but had to continue forward.  They could not change routes and go across Tagish Lake, as they could easily get lost in the dark and miss their friend’s place completely.  Being on the lake ice at night was very unsafe, as there were soft spots in the ice that they couldn’t see, and they could break through and plunge to the bottom.  Unfortunately, the left shore of the lake where their trail ran had received the most drifting snow, and they had no choice but to go through it.  By now it was very dark and they could just see the outlines of the large trees close by…these trees were all they had to steer by.  In the distance they spotted the light from the friend’s place, but it was still a long way off.  Stress and weariness settled in.  Every so often, Judy’s companion would ask, “Are we getting closer?”

Finally, they parked the sleds.  Judy left her friend with the dogs and sleds and walked about one-third mile to the house on her snowshoes.  Her friend there had been worried, because she knew they were coming.  When Judy finally arrived, she was so dehydrated that she drank a quart of water.  She walked back, judy-card3taking water to the dogs and to her friend. After all, their very lives were dependent on the dogs’ ability to take them to safety, so she took care of them first. They hitched up, then followed Judy’s snowshoe tracks to the cabin, arriving at 4:00 in the morning.  Judy says that the simple route that she’d used so often turned into the trip from hell.  Instead of four to five hours of travel time, it took them fifteen.  They never would have made it if she weren’t so stubborn.

Her Fairbanks garden was wonderful.  She grew such vegetables as zucchini, lettuce, beets, carrots, chard, and green beans.  She tried to grow plants that the moose wouldn’t eat.  She had an added moose deterrent:  The dog kennels were spread out in 2 rows in a big circle with an alley down the middle.  The garden was planted inside the circle.  An 8-foot fence surrounded the whole area.  If the moose wanted to get to those plants,, it would have to jump the fence and go through the double row of dogs.

In Fairbanks, Judy started a B & B called Earthtone Huskies, renting mostly to summer guests.  The cabins had no running water, so she had to appeal to hardy folks who didn’t mind a somewhat primitive lifestyle.  Most guests were Europeans.  She met many interesting people.  Her guests’ fees helped pay for dog food.  Judy would take guests out for 30 to 45-minute rides with the team, which they all claimed was the highlight  of their trip.

Judy’s artwork is a reflection of the outdoor area where she lived.  While in junior high, j-block2she learned how to make linoleum block prints, and while in Hoonah, she began making Christmas cards.  Soon a business was born.  Now she makes one or two designs a year.  As her line of cards grew, she joined the Artist’s Coop in Juneau and did art shows in the fall and winter.

Here are instructions from Judy on how to make linoleum block prints:  First, you have to draw the picture.  Put it on tracing paper and reverse the image so when you print it, so it j-block1comes out right-side up.  Put the design on the block with carbon paper.  Use the kind that is found in triple-copy documents, as that carbon design cannot be rubbed off with your fingers.

Once the design is on the block, start carving.  Be aware that what is white on your final picture is the area that you have carved away; color stays on the raised portions.  Roll ink on the block and place paper on it to make a judy-card6black and white copy.  Rub the paper with a tablespoon until all the ink is on the paper.  When inking, lift up one side of the paper at a time to see if it is inked properly; if not, touch it up with the roller.  Make prints until you get a really good copy.  If color is needed, put it on that final copy with a magic marker.  Take it to a commercial printer.  Judy gets 500 to 1,000 cards made from her copy.

Judy ran dogs in the Yukon and in Fairbanks for 25-30 years.  Besides loving the dogs, she likes to be outdoors.  She says mushing is good exercise in winter, and the country looks totally different than in the summer.  Her mushing career evolved from skiing to skijoring, and finally, to mushing.  Often she would go skijoring when in Juneau.  The dog team picture in this article was taken outside Juneau at Spaulding Meadows, a 3-mile hike up to a great place for skijoring.judy-skijoring

After 15 years in Fairbanks, Judy moved to Gustavus.  Her hands were suffering from the cold winters, and she needed to be someplace warmer.  She thought Gustavus was a good choice because she also needed a place with flat terrain.  A knee injury from an auto accident made climbing hills difficult.

Though now she only has 12 dogs, Judy still runs them.  Their “trail” is Rink Creek Road.  The team pulls a dog cart or her car, which is a Geo Tracker.  She uses 6 dogs for the car, though 5 will pull it.

Here is a picture of Osa,  one of Judy’s lead dogs.  She also gets to be a housedog.  Osa is an AKC Siberian husky, daughter of Ruby,judy-osa-2another AKC husky, who was killed by wolves in Gustavus.  Judy bought two male AKC Siberians, Kumo and Barack.  One of Kumo’s pups is in Colorado, where he lives with a boy with some serious health challenges.  The dog has helped the boy a great deal, and his health has improved.

Juneau people can meet Judy in person and buy some of her wonderful cards at the Juneau Public Market, held in Centennial Hall the 3 days after Thanksgiving.  Judy’s booth is in the same place every year in the Egan Room.  Be sure to stop by and say hello and make your card selection.


stephanieThis story comes from guest blogger, Stephanie Shor. It is a report on the dedication ceremony of the new Tlingit tribal house in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park.  Stephanie is the editor of our sweet local paper, “Strawberry Point Pioneer.”  Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing the story of this historical event with us!

“We heard our ancestors singing as we came into the bay.  They’ve waited a long time for us.  It’s hard to hold back the tears of joy.”

The shores of Glacier Bay were humming with people, young and old, native and non-native, as three traditionalcanoes2 Tlingit canoes slowly emerged through the morning mist of Bartlett Cove. Hoonah Tlingit children, grandchildren of the tribe in their ancestors’ regalia, waited with wide eyes to receive them in a long-awaited return to their homeland.

The first day of the week-long tribal house dedication event included a color guard for Hoonah veterans, a naming ceremony for the tribal house, a spirit song and a collective breath of life into the structure.

As the canoes, carved over long months from 400-year-old trees, drew closer to the sight of the new tribal house standing on ancient Tlingit land, elders and their grandchildren began to sing.  Hoonah’s youth met the
tribded2rowers and were handed the individually carved oars of their elders as the crowd lifted the canoes to carry as a whole onto land.

Huna Tlingit history began in this land of lower Glacier Bay, where there were at least 3 ancient tribal houses, like the modern-day version now in Bartlett Cove. About 300 years ago, they were forced to flee their homeland as glaciers advanced and overran their settlements, according to park service documentation. The retreating Tlingit clans eventually settled in modern-day Hoonah.

Tlingit elder, Ken Grant, watched from the new tribal house as the people sang and danced through the crowds and up the hill of their ancient birthplace.  Many had tears streaming down their faces.  The children were solemn with understanding.

“What we ever do is for our children and our grandchildren,” he said.  “They can say, ‘I was there and I am Tlingit from Hoonah.’”tribalhouse86

Grant stressed the importance of the Xunaa Shuka Hit, or “Huna Ancestor’s House,” in incorporating “the ancestors before you and the children ahead of you” to keep their traditions alive.   Young adults and elders were ceremoniously dressed in their regalia by members of an opposite clan to symbolize partnership.  The new tribal house in Bartlett Cove represents four different clans.

One of the many purposes of the tribal house, which took nearly 20 years of collaboration between the National Park Service and Tlingit people to complete, is to foster a sense of healing between communities and within tribded3individuals.  In fact, as master carver, Wayne Price, and others crafted the canoes in Hoonah, youngsters collected the wood chips from the ground and community members wrote names of loved ones suffering from personal struggles such as addiction and depression, to burn in symbolic release.

The process of burning wood chips was incorporated into the soaking and steaming of the canoes, which the entire Hoonah community helped to accomplish.  Tlingit master weaver, Darlene See, visited Gustavus often to provide updates on the massive project underway. She said Hoonah residents rose at 6 am for every  soaking and steaming to carry the unfinished canoes down to the water.

Upon completion, canoers paddled tirelessly from Hoonah to reach Glacier Bay in time to see their tribal house.  At the opening ceremony, elders thanked not only the trees for their contribution, which they likened to their revered women, who constantly bring life, but also their neighbors in Gustavus and all across Southeast, tribded1both native and non-native.  This was a first in history for the National Park Service and a native group to collaborate on such a project, and NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis bestowed a partnership award on the accomplishment.

Southeast residents joined the park service and their Tlingit neighbors at the ceremony, and all helped to breathe life into the tribal house, meant to not only bring tribded4the Tlingit people back to their homeland, but to bring all people together, Grant said.

“This house to us is a keystone that holds up the bridge between the National Park Service and the Huna Tlingit,” he told the crowd.  “I wish the rest of the world could be like that.  Instead of fighting with each other, let’s talk.”


Raven walked along the sandy beach, alone.  He wanted someone to talk to.  You see, in those days, animals and people understood each others’ languages.  So, when Raven heard voices crying, “Let us out!  Let us out!” he knew the voices of people and he searched for the source of the sound.

He came upon a giant clam shell, and from inside came the voices.  Raven pried the clam shell open with his strong beak and let the people out.  Now he would have someone to talk to!

“Thank you, Raven,” said a small spokesperson.  “But how shall we survive?  We are very cold.”

I will bring you a sun,” said Raven.  “He will warm you.”

Raven flew to the part of the sky where the suns lived.  While they slept, he grabbed a small sun in his beak and flew away.  But the baby sun was hot, so Raven nestled it in a bank of clouds and flew to the North Pole.  There, he dipped his talons repeatedly into the cold water until they were thickly covered with ice Thus he was able to carry the little sun home in his talons.

When he reached the People, the ice on his talons melted and a great shower drenched them.  Soon, however, the People dried in the warmth of their new little sun.

So the People talked to Raven and grew stronger, and bigger, and as they grew, so did the sun, so that it could take care of their needs.  But Raven did not change.  Finally, the People became as we are today. Raven still talks to us; however, now that we have grown up, we have forgotten his language.

This sterling silver “Emerging Mankind” bracelet is designed by Barry Herem.  Mr. Herem, a best-selling artist, has worked in the emer-mankind6Haida style for many years.  The etching represents the clamshell creation myth when Raven helped the first people emerge from the clamshell.

This bracelet is 6 1/4 inches long and the gap is 1 inch.  At the ends the silver is rolled in, making this bracelet very comfortable to wear.  The bracelet is 7/8 inch wide at its widest
emer-mankind4part, tapering to 1/4 inch at the ends. It is machine made, but with accurate detail; thus it bears the artist’s signature. Inside, it is signed “Barry Herem,” then the MAG stamp (Metal Arts Group) and the word, “sterling.”  Retail price of this bracelet is $206.00.  It is available for sale in my Ebay store.  Just click on the Ebay link to go there.

The sterling silver “Raven Steals the Sun” bracelet is a design by Danny M. Dennis.  Mr.
ravensun2Dennis is a native Gitksan of the Tsimshian tribe, from the village of Kiwanga.  He is self-taught.  He has been producing Northwest Coast art since 1978.  He uses a variety of materials, including metal, ivory and silkscreen prints in the Tlingit style.

This bracelet is 6 3/4 inches long, with a gap that measures 1 5/8 inches.  The bracelet is 1 1/8 inches wide.  It is machine made, with great attention to detail and excellent quality design reproduction.  Inscription inside includes the artist’s signature, D. ravensun1Dennis; the MAG (Metal Arts Group) stamp, and the word “sterling.”  Retail price of this bracelet is $338.00. It is available for purchase in my eBay store.