READY FOR HIBERNATION – Matthew Brechl wears a bear suit and pushes a jogger as he races in last weekend's 10 K WhaleFest Run on Sawmill Creek Road. More than 100 runners turned out for the event. The annual WhaleFest included a well-attended marine science symposium with participants from the University of Alaska, Penninsula College and Fort Lewis College, a film festival, an art show, a whale watching tour, a market, a banquet, a concert and a variety show. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Lucie Eckersall

Lucie Eckersall, a former member of the Sitka community, died peacefully on Dec. 11, 2017, surrounded by family in her hometown of Bishop’s Waltham, in Hampshire, England. She was 51 years old. Services were held  near her family home in England on Dec. 22, where more than 120 friends gathered to pay their respects.

Lucie Eckersall

Lucie lived in Sitka intermittently from 2003 to 2006, and returned for trips during the summer as often as she could. Despite her disagreements with the weather, she was extraordinarily fond of this coastal Alaskan town. She referred to her own notoriously rainy homeland as “essentially arid in comparison.”

She was raised in a Medieval market town along the river Hamble, where she did well at school and followed her natural inclination for mathematics. She grew to be a competitive skier, though she learned to ski on an artificial slope made of plastic bristles and which was built on sheets of plywood from the roof of a community building and ran down onto a farmer’s field. She would travel to competitions in the Alps, to which she would often drive in a vehicle with no heat or defrost, scraping the windshield with one arm as she went.

She took a mathematics degree from the prestigious University College London (over which the school’s patron, Jeremy Bentham, still presides, having been taxidermied and installed in the main foyer per his own request).  After graduation she worked her way around the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic as a ship’s cook, and came to work in a theatre in Key West, Florida, using the skills as a lighting technician which she had acquired while interning for the BBC in London. From there she took the unlikely post of bicycle courier in Washington, D.C., where her lifelong love of cycling began.

Her mathematics degree led her to teach in international schools around the globe, including five years spent in South America, as well as Italy, the UK and the United States. She led international school trips throughout Europe, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, and Namibia, and traveled for adventure as far afield as Morocco, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. 

She was known for her iron constitution, able to eat local fare unharmed that would fell the stoutest of her traveling companions.

She was conversant in Spanish, French, Italian and – she would point out – ’Merican.  

To assist with student training for one teaching position in England, she was asked to become a civilian Flight Lieutenant (always pronounced “Left-Tenant”) for the Royal Air Force.  Though she was technically an officer, she never flew a plane and admitted never quite getting used to genuine career military professionals being required to salute her.

It was in Argentina in 1997 that she met her future husband, Nils Jackson. The couple would be together for 17 years, living and traveling together on four continents.

Lucie was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in 1998, but after two years of extensive treatments (to which she would often ride her bicycle, claiming cheerfully that bicycling to radiation treatments felt better than sitting in traffic). She remained symptom-free until 2017. 

Lucie detected signs of a cerebral glioma in September 2017, which developed very rapidly. She died three months later. Her family reports that she was surrounded by loved ones and that there was not significant physical pain. 

While in Sitka she worked as a waitress and tour assistant, and volunteered many very happy hours with the EMS squad at the fire hall. She was also an on-call substitute math teacher at Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe High.

She enjoyed hiking and sailing with her husband and their friend Bill Spivey, climbing and snowboarding on Mt. Verstovia and Gavan Hill, spending time at the Hames Center, and fishing when the weather was fair and someone else was on hand to bait the hook and fillet the catch. She loved traveling by float plane, watching the northern lights and, despite the rain, would volunteer to hide herself on the damp hillsides to help train some of Sitka’s rescue dogs. She absolutely loved chatting with people at the Back Door Cafe to discuss current events, catch up with friends, or share the latest political comedy she had run across online.

She had many friends all over the world, who will remember her for her warmth, her brazen sense of humor, her tenacious sense of justice, and the hospitality she shared when Sitka folks passed through London on their way elsewhere.

She is survived by her parents, Mary and Arnold Eckersall; her sister, Faith; her brother Matthew; and a beloved niece and two nephews. Lucie is very deeply missed.

 

 

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