FULL FIELD – Bathtub toy ducks float down Granite Creek toward a finish line at Halibut Point Recreation Area Saturday afternoon during the annual Sitka Rotary Club duck race. First place, two Alaska Airlines round-trip tickets, were won by Ron and Leah Kari. This year all 3,500 ducks were sold by June 14. Money raised at the event is donated to dozens of Sitka non-profits. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Services to be June 18 For Myrtle L. Helem

Myrtle L. Helem

Services for Myrtle Louise Helem, longtime Sitka businesswoman, will be held 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, at Sitka National Cemetery.
The Rev. Julie Platson, of St. Peter’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, will officiate the graveside service. A  casual memorial reception will follow at Longliner Lodge Restaurant.
Myrtle passed away May 21 at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital-SEARHC after a brief illness. She was 94.
Myrtle Louise Beall was born February 13, 1925, in Vancouver, B.C., the second of three children of Chester Beall and Eliza Angeline Beall. The family moved to West Seattle in the early 1930s, and Myrtle was raised there. Myrtle’s father passed away at a young age, and caring for and raising the children fell solely upon her mother Eliza. As a result, Myrtle, as well as her siblings, had to enter the workforce at a young age. She developed strong business skills and a passion for hard work that would later pave the way to several successful businesses in Sitka.
After graduating West Seattle High School in 1943, Myrtle volunteered with the Navy Waves (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during WW II.  Shortly after the end of her Navy service, she met Gordon James Helem, also a Navy veteran, and the two eloped to San Francisco and wed on October 15, 1947. Their first child, Theresa L., was born the following year.
Gordon was a commercial fisherman who had fished in Alaska for many years. With his connection to Alaska, a strong work ethic and a knack for electrical engineering, he landed a job at Ketchikan Pulp Mill while Myrtle was employed by Bob Ellis at the original Ellis Airlines.
The couple lived in Ketchikan for two years before Gordon went to work in construction at the new pulp mill in Sitka. After construction, Gordon became chief electrician for the new Alaska Pulp Mill in Sitka in 1959. By this time, the couple had three children, with the birth of G. Kenneth and Gerald L. and were ready to set down roots.
While Gordon continued his career with the pulp mill, Myrtle ran two successful laundromats, the Whirlomat on America Street in 1959 and Town & Country Laundry located in the Ken Brown Apartments complex in 1966. In 1972, the Helems founded Sitka Electrical Contractors, then in 1977 Myrtle and Gordon started Sitka True Value Hardware Inc.
While handling multiple jobs, growing businesses, and raising a family, Gordon and Myrtle were also building their dream home that they shared together until Gordon’s passing in 1996. Myrtle continued to live at the home until her passing.
Myrtle Helem was a determined, proud and strong-willed businesswoman. She continued to work and help at Sitka True Value on a daily basis until just a few years ago. Myrtle was often found straightening up aisles, working with employees on product placement, and balancing the accounts.
Besides her passion for her businesses, Myrtle was a long-time active member in several social community organizations including Sitka Emblem Club and the Beta Sigma Phi Women’s Organization.  
Myrtle Helem was preceded in death by her husband Gordon Helem; mother and father Chester and Eliza (Peggy) Beall; and her two sisters, Norma Hilsinger and Dorthea Pitner; and grandson Randy Helem.
Myrtle Louise Helem is survived by her three children, Theresa Helem, Ken (Carole) Helem, and Jerry (Mary) Helem; eight grandchildren,  Doug Helem, Jeff (Jolene) Helem, Tim Bernard, Katie (Jason) Yuhaz, Nicole (Chris) Renneker, Amanda (Jon) Martin, Ashley Grearson and Danielle Helem; and 14 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the charity of your choice.



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-6-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 1:25 p.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 28

Total statewide – 1,166

Total (cumulative) deaths – 16

Active cases in Sitka – 6 (3 resident; 3 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 12 (10 resident; 2 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 74.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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