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 Set July 20 For Nels Herbert Lawson, 79

Nels Herbert Lawson

Nels Herbert Lawson passed away at his home July 8, 2019, with his loving family at his side. He was 79.
He was born Sept. 4, 1939, in Juneau/Douglas. The first few years of his life, he lived in an Indian Village located across the channel from Juneau on Douglas’ sandy beach. His mother, Elizabeth, stayed home to care for him and run the household. His father, Herb, was a commercial fisherman.
While Nels was still very young, his family moved to Hoonah. During his time there, the devastating 1944 burning of Hoonah took place. This tragedy started as a house fire and nearly every house in Hoonah caught on fire. The fire was so intense that it took the entire day to burn out. Only a few buildings on the outskirts of town survived.
Soon after this tragedy, another struck. In 1948, Nels’ mother contracted tuberculosis. She was sent to the TB hospital on Japonski Island, and  Nels’ father moved here to be with his wife. Meanwhile, the seven children spent the year in the Presbyterian Missionary orphanage in Haines. They then moved to Sitka to join their father and recovered mother.
Nels, along with his six siblings, attended the Etolin Street School. Nels graduated from high school in 1957 along with 19 other students in his class. During his high school years he spent many long summer days long-lining for halibut with his uncle, learning persistence and devotion.
Nels later attended college at Fort Worth in Spokane, Washington. It was during his studies that he changed direction and fulfilled his lifelong dream of being a U.S. Marine. Nels served his country honorably for four years and returned to Sitka following his discharge.
Always trying to better himself, Nels soon left again to attend electronics schooling in Los Angeles and New York City. After 18 months of electronics schooling, he once again returned to Sitka.
In 1965, Nels left for the San Francisco Bay area for a new job opportunity. This new job included designing and building satellite communication systems. During his time in San Francisco, Nels and his group designed and built communication systems that would later be used in space. The aerospace electronics field had his attention and dedication for 15 years. During this time, his work assisted the first lunar landing and many other adventures of the Space Age. Nobody had designed and built anything like this before and there were no building plans to follow.
In 1978, Nels married his Georgia peach, Sheila. She was born on a train in Georgia. From opposite corners of the country, they met in electronics school and chatted during coffee breaks. The two fell in love and were soon married. They both decided not to raise their family in the heavily urbanized environment of the Bay Area. They sold everything and headed to Alaska in search of work and a new start on life. Juneau did not offer any opportunities for Nels, so he decided to return to Sitka once again. Luckily, the Forest Service had an opening. The man who started out as a Marine turned computer specialist would become a Native Liaison. He formed many agreements between the Native Alaskans and the Forest Service to benefit both sides.
After working many years with the Forest Service, Nels retired in 2003. He was a respected member of the community and actively involved in many Native and community organizations. Even in retirement, Nels never lost his devotion to the greater good or his dedication to his community. In 2012, Nels became leader of the Sitka Kaagwaantaan Clan. In his capacity as Clan leader, Nels flourished. He wore many hats both figuratively and literally. Not only was he a leader, mentor, adviser, and confidante; he was also a friend, brother, uncle, father, grandfather and husband. Nels wore all these hats with ease, honor, confidence, and pride. 
Nels is predeceased by his mother and father, Elizabeth and Herb Lawson, two brothers and one sister.
Treasured memories will be forever in the hearts of his wife, Sheila, of Sitka, and his seven children, Nels Lawson II of Sitka, Deborah Gonzales and Rick of Fairbanks, Pauline Mead and Greg of Alma, Washington, Art Stephens Jr. and Angie of Graham, Washington, Katu Allen and Jessica Garcia, both of the San Francisco Bay area, and Nels Demma of Anchorage.
 He also is survived by 20 grandchildren, and a growing number of great-grandchildren; and brothers Ralph Lawson of Anchorage and Larry Lawson of Windsor, California, and a sister, Bernadine Shultz of Canoga Park, California.

A Lutheran memorial service at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 20, will be followed by an Alaska Native Brotherhood service, a reception, and a Kaagwaantaan Clan cultural service, all at the ANB Founders Hall. The public is invited to attend.

Honorary pallbearer are Sam Pointer (USMC),  Tony Phillips (USMC), Bernie Gurule (USMC), Justin Hulse           (USMC), Art Stephens (USA), Jared Carpenter (USN), Wayne Myers (USAF), Brian Gundaker (USCG), and             Ted Allio (AK NG).



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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