VIGIL – More than 300 people share seven minutes of silence on Totem Square during a vigil for George Floyd, who died last week while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The large turnout for event made it difficult for participants to maintain the six-foot social distance that organizers had hoped for. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Joan Vanderwerp


Services for Joan Elizabeth Vanderwerp have been scheduled 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church. A reception will follow in the parish hall.

Joan died Aug. 18 of cancer. She was 66.

She was born Feb. 10, 1946, in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of eight children of Harry Lucas and Winifred (Mooney) Vanderwerp. She received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, and a master’s in public accounting at Walsh College, in Detroit.

She lived in Sitka for about 21 years – off and on since August 1981 – and had worked as a bookkeeper-accountant for the City and Borough of Sitka, and as an adjunct professor at Sheldon Jackson College.

She married Robert Ellis June 7, 2002, at Sheldon Jackson College.

Family and friends were foremost in her life, and her other interests included philanthropy, travel and quilting. But much of her time was spent contributing to the community as a volunteer.

She was active with Brave Heart Volunteers; served on the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation Board; helped with the Paths Across Pacific conferences; was on the WhaleFest board; helped with Octoberfest; and was a member of the Sitka Historical Society, Sitka Conservation Society and Ocean Wave Quilters. She sang in the choir at St. Gregory’s Church, and was a hospitality minister.

“Joan was the consummate volunteer within her community,” her family said. “She was the very best friend she could be. She extended herself to all people in all situations. Her friends were her life.

“As a deeply spiritual person, God was a big presence in her life. Joan was the kindest, most generous, thoughtful person imaginable, and brought magic into the lives of her family and friends. She will be sorely missed by those who knew her.”

Joan was preceded in death by a brother, James Vanderwerp, and a brother-in-law, Anthony Wolocko.

She is survived by her husband, Robert Ellis of Sitka, and his children, son Carl and his wife Leslie Ellis, and daughter Jane Ellis-Peters, her husband John Peters and their daughter, Morgan, all of Portland, Ore.; her son Scott Gingrich, his wife Carla and their children, Patrick, Erin, Shawn, Alix and Gavin, all of Anchorage; son Matt Gingrich and his daughter Ariel, of Mashpee, Mass.; and daughter Jeanne MacPherson, her husband Chris MacPherson, and their children, Ryan and Colin, of West Hartford, Conn.

Also surviving are her siblings and their spouses, Maryann and George Macdonald, Sara Moran, Ann and Winston Ingalls, Tom and Fran Vanderwerp, Susan Wolocko, and Kathleen and Tom Clark; and sister-in-law Beth Vanderwerp.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the SAFV shelter of Sitka.





Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 6-2-20)

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 10:20 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 20

Total statewide – 487

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 47, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

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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