GILNETTINGS: Good Sitkans Made Town a Better Place

Category: Local News
Created on Wednesday, 20 May 2020 15:42

By GIL TRUITT

Special to the Sentinel

There are some mighty fine, generous and considerate people in this town.

They have made this a great place to settle. And yet, many do not know who these people are for the simple reason they do not talk about their accomplishments. They are happiest when they help others with good deeds. Such as the following, listed in order of memory rather than by accomplishment:

Ralph Weeks arrived at Sheldon Jackson in the Fall of 1938 as a teacher, basketball coach and head of one of the boys dormitories. He was    quickly given the name Pop Weeks. He was easily the most loved staff member on campus. He was a great basketball coach; and outstanding teacher and dynamic  preacher. During the 1940-41 basketball season, he sent two duffle bags full of boys and girls clothing to a needy family residing in the cottages with the knowledge of acceptance regardless of sizes, styles and colors. Making deliveries were students Isabella Sing, Dorothy Gordon, Cyril George, Ray Demmert and Robert Jeff David. They were destined to make additional visits to the same home.

Robert Jeff David (Photo provided)

Ralph Weeks left SJ at the time of the 1942 school year. He was hired as religious coordinator at Mt. Edgecumbe High school at the beginning of the first year of operation. He stayed in that position three years before moving on to a ministerial   position up North. His impact was as great at MEHS as it was at Sheldon Jackson.    He was one of a kind.

David P. Howard Sr. graduated in 1915 from Sheldon Jackson grade school where he was an outstanding athlete in every sport that he participated in. In time, he was considered the top athlete in Southeast. However, it was not sports that gave him much acclaim. It was public service and the manner in which he treated others.

In the latter years of his life,  before he moved to the Pioneer Home, his modest home on Katlian Street became the home for the needy and homeless. The place was so crowded that floor space was limited and guests had to sleep on the floor without bedding. Years later, those who slept on the floor stated that was preferable to sleeping on the ground or under someone’s house. All walks of life took advantage of the hospitality afforded by Mr. Howard.

It was learned recently that the food items that often appeared in the home were donations from various bakeries and grocery store owners at the time. Drop-ins for a night or two always had a warm place to stay and something to eat in the morning. After graduation from high school, I spent a number of nights and times with the rest of the bunch.

Not too long ago, a number of us who benefited by the hospitality of Mr. Howard, talked about Dave and what a blessing he had been to so many guys who needed the help that he offered.

The following is not about Peter Simpson but rather quotations that he made famous:

“Never change anything unless you can come up with something better;” “Do not get involved in Native Politics;”  “Custer thought he understood, look what happened to him;” “Always tell the truth and you do not have to remember what you said;” “Be nice to everyone, it does not cost anything;” “Read the Good Book every day;” “Start planning your life at an early age and do not be afraid to change;” “When you pass on, people will not ask how much money did he leave; instead they will ask what did he do for others.”

L. C. Louis Berg looked mean and uncaring and always with an unlit cigar hanging on one side of his mouth.    Those who did not know him described him as above. Those who knew him laughed at the description and always defended him with many words of praise. He was most often said to be kind, big-hearted and always willing to give a lending hand to those in need.  He was a fish buyer whose business was situated on the Cold Storage Dock. He pretty much  hired the same people year after year. Loyalty to each other was a big part of the longevity.

 

Highlight of each year was the season-ending party that honored every one including the boss. Everyone receive a present or prize. Top prizes were ham; pork hindquarters and beef hindquarters. A lady won the pork and beef. This was in 1942. Sam Didrickson was given a bonus one hundred dollar check for working for the company longer than anyone else.

Mr. Berg married the former government nurse and she made home deliveries. One of those deliveries, she named Alvin, after her father. Mr. Berg had a son, Carl, from a previous marriage and he had friends who worked in the cold storage or Pyramid Packing: Lawrence Straub, Arden Gorsline, Jack Thompson, Gordon Buckman, Larry Miller, Harold Hodgins and Tony Herman. Tony had friends everywhere.    Stan Westover and brother Pee Wee were right behind.    

The last-named socialized with everyone. Unusual at the time. 

Former State Senator Albert Adams graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 1961 and became a legend in the following years. He rose to prominent and powerful positions in the House and then the Senate as Chairman. 

Bean’s    Cafe    and    its cliental were the Senator’s favorites. The café is a soup kitchen located in downtown Anchorage and serves primarily those down on their luck, homeless. The Café is situated by 4th Avenue where the Senator would walk with coins in pocket and often give them to street walkers who sought help.

One Anchorage publication reported the Senator donated 50 turkeys to assist in the Thanksgiving feed. He always gave freely. He was from Kotzebue, a former Brave, highly respected and extremely popular. His favorite slogan was “Once a Brave, always a Brave.” He loved MEHS and people always spoke of him in loving terms. He attended every school reunion on site or where the event was staged.    

When MEHS was in need of fundraising, the Senator was right in the midst of all efforts and was a big help in the success.

 

His passing was a big loss to MEHS and the State of Alaska. He was absolutely correct, in talking about Edgecumbe “Once a Brave, Always a Brave.”