OPEN AIR CONCERT – From left, musicians Ross Venneberg, Brian Neal, Wade Demmert and Roger Schmidt perform an outdoor brass concert for residents of the Pioneers Home Monday. The professional musicians, who are hunkered down in Sitka, are regulars at the annual Holiday Brass Concert. The Pioneers Home has been closed to visitors during the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Peter David Sumner Dies; Piano Technician was 68

Peter David Sumner

Peter (Pete) David Sumner, a piano technician who was known in Sitka, died peacefully at home in San Anselmo, California, March 29. He was 68.
Pete is survived by his wife Lynn O’Brien of San Anselmo; his brother Michael John Sumner and his partner Kelly Scott of Lincolnshire, England; and by his daughters Rachel Henry (Jay) of Cleethorpes, England, and Elizabeth Dungworth (Richard) of Melton Mowbray, England.
He is also survived by his beloved grandchildren, Ruby Henry, Archie Henry, Erin Henry, Ted Henry and Jack Dungworth.
Pete was born in Sheffield, England, April 21,1950, to Kathleen and Geoffrey Sumner. His family moved to Humberston near Cleethorpes in 1958 and he graduated from Clee Grammar School at age 16. After leaving school, he worked in the offices of the Ross Group on Grimsby fish docks.
He was a prominent member of Grimsby Folk Club and played there with many local musicians. In 1978 he moved to Bermuda to work for the Bank of Bermuda. In his time there, he immersed himself in music as a member of the Bermuda Folk Club, helping to bring numerous artists to Bermuda to perform and creating lifetime friendships in the process.
He returned to England in 1984 and continued in the music business professionally playing music and operating a music store.
In a pivotal decision in 1985 he enrolled in the Piano Tuning and Maintenance Program at Newark Technical College, graduating in 1988. He had found a vocation he loved and was started on his life path to becoming a   brilliant piano technician.
In 1998, following love and optimism, he moved to the United Sates and settled in southern California. He eventually moved to northern California and continued to work as a piano technician. He was proud to become a U.S. citizen in 2007.
The highlights of his career were his connection with Steinway Pianos, his position as curator of pianos at Stanford University, his five summers as the head piano technician at the Aspen Music Festival, and more recently at the Brevard Music Center.
His work also took him to Mexico, Colombia, China, Oregon, Arizona and Sitka.
He most loved his ability to launch new piano technicians into the world. He mentored other technicians and taught interns at Aspen.
He was a lifelong guitarist and a beautiful mandolin player. He had incredible artistic abilities as evidenced by his handmade bodhrans and leather guitar straps. He discovered the work of Alexander Calder and Joan Miro and was inspired by their art to create many mobiles and sculptures. He created gel prints, mixed media art pieces and recently learned welding to make masks from metal farm implement pieces. In 2018 he began book-binding and was enjoying learning that process.
His obituary would not be complete without mentioning San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He and his wife traveled there in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the community of artists, musicians and other like-minded people. They soon bought a house there and intended to spend several months a year there.
“Thanks to Hospice by the Bay for their support and care,” his wife said. “A special shout-out to Ken and Julie Hardin, Ann Rubin Close, Patty Cason, Mary James and Sandra Soklin and my many nurse friends too numerous to mention ... for being by my side throughout Pete’s illness and still continue to support me.”
Donations in Pete’s name can be made to: the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Direct Relief and 4Ocean.



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-7-20)

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 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Sunday: 19

Total statewide – 1,184

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (3 resident; 5 non-resident)

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

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 78.

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 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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