MASKED UP – Mt. Edgecumbe High School students receive prizes for their costumes this afternoon outside the school library. This year’s Halloween costume contest was held outdoors with everyone wearing masks in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Sitkans are trying to have a degree of normalcy while acting responsibly during the pandemic. Businesses are having Halloween-themed  sales over the weekend. Also, Sitka merchants will be hosting the downtown Trick-or-Treat event Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. with everyone asked to observe social distancing recommendations. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

John N. Polivka Dies; Longtime SE Troller

John Nicholas Polivka

On Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, John Nicholas Polivka crossed over the bar to join his Savior, friends, and family on the other side. 

Born in 1941 to John Nicholas and Mary Polivka, both of them children of Czechoslovakian immigrants who had made their voyage to the “New Country” after World War I. John was the first-born son with three older sisters and a younger brother.

John’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors began early. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in forestry, John was offered a job in Southeast Alaska with the U.S. Forest Service. He was quickly packed and on his way. He arrived in Sitka to find a land rich in wilderness and natural resources. His timing was impeccable, following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and the early days of a growing salmon fishing fleet. John was soon bitten by the fishing bug. He worked his timber cruising job by day and any free time he had was spent exploring the waters of Southeast in his Boston Whaler, trolling for King Salmon. John was soon filling his Whaler with the giant Columbia River Kings that roamed local waters.

The decision was made to upgrade to a bigger boat and John worked hard to save enough money to purchase the wooden troller Larkspur II. Unfortunately, this boat soon proved to be too small for John. He often found himself not only filling the hold, but also having to resort to filling the berths and any other space on board with his abundant catches.

John was tireless in his quest to find the secret haunts of the salmon. He would reluctantly pull his gear each day well after the sun set, which is saying something during those long days of summer, and early dawn would find him the first boat on the drag.

His work ethic was a personality trait that runs deeply in his family’s genes. The notion that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” has always been implemented and practiced to the extreme by the Polivkas. That hard work allowed John to begin designing and building the F/V Sunse in the early 1970s. It was a labor of love for John. He was helped in the endeavor by his father, a self-taught industrial designer and architect, who also designed John’s home on Wortman Loop. 

John practiced his faith with the same fervor as his fishing. He made sure to install outdoor speakers on the Sunse so he could listen to scholars and theologians lecture on the proof of God’s existence and the Bible as historical fact. Every boat puller he employed was also introduced to hours of it as well. In another life John would have been a missionary, spreading the gospel and helping the poor around the world. His diligent contributions recall the English poet Spencer: “Let us love, dear love, like as we ought; Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.” In this life, John shared his love of the Lord and love of the outdoors with everyone. He is fondly remembered by his sister Barb and niece Deb for opening their eyes to the beauty and grace of the natural world. John readily shared his passions with anyone who was within earshot and invited many to accompany him on his various hunting and fishing adventures.

 John Polivka loved his family and friends with a deep tenderness. He was forever the “lost boy” seeking families to adopt him. He could eat twice his weight in one sitting and never hesitated to show up unannounced for dinner. Somehow these idiosyncrasies endeared him to many. He was a fortunate man.

 John died doing what he loved. Aboard his beloved Sunse, he fished hard right up to the end of the season and when he had caught “that one last fish,” the Lord opened the doors of heaven to welcome him home. His life and passing call to mind a line from St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in Thee.” 

John is survived by his sisters Mary Anne Cates and Barbara Anderson and his brother Thomas Polivka along with four nieces and two nephews. 

A memorial service to spread John’s ashes in Shelikof Bay is tentatively planned for May 2021. 



August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 10-30-20)

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 9:40 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 380

Total statewide – 14,837

Total (cumulative) deaths – 81

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (14 resident; 3 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 62 (49 resident; 13 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 430.

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

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




October 2000

Photo caption: Their Halloweeen party over, Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff members and their families turn heads as they stroll down Katlian Street Friday. Several Halloween events were held over the weekend. This afternoon kids were invited downtown to trick or treat at businesses; and tonight parties and more trick or treating expeditions will bring out more ... whatever.

October 1970

The only method through which the United States will adopt a 200-mile limit for its contiguous fishing zone is by a change in international law which would require consent of two-thirds of the nations at an international conference, the assistant Secretary of State for Fisheries and Wildlife told fishermen in Sitka.