CHECKING IT OUT – Fia Turczynewycz, a visitor from Ohio, walks her dog,  Mani, past the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center this morning. Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph’s newly completed yellow cedar Waas’go pole, pictured in the background, was moved out of the park’s carving shed Thursday to make room for Joseph’s latest project – carving a Tlingit canoe with the aid of an apprentice. Joseph’s Waas’go pole is the third version of the Haida pole in the past century – a reproduction of a reproduction made in the 1930s by George Benson, which is placed inside the visitor center. Rangers are working on approval for a location along the park’s trail system for the new pole. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Ursula Barbara Zertuche Dies in Sitka at Age 80

Ursula Barbara Zertuche (Rathe)

Ursula Barbara Zertuche (Rathe) was born on March 4, 1940, in Dusseldorf, Germany, to George and Margaret Rathe. She passed away on May 21 at her home in Sitka.

Ursula grew up in Cologne, Germany, where her parents owned a restaurant and guest house.

She and her sister Annagret worked in the family business, and it was there she developed her love for cooking. She had fond memories of working with her mother in the kitchen and learning the hospitality trade. She attended business school in Cologne, where she took bookkeeping classes.

Ursula met and, in 1963, married Harold Conner, who was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force.

They lived in Germany and Spain for the next three years. Her only child, Ron, was born in Spain on December 8, 1963. They left Germany in 1966 and moved to Virginia, where Harold was stationed. Then it was on to Kansas and Arizona.

She obtained her U.S. citizenship in 1974, while living in Arizona. This was something that made her immensely proud. In Arizona she worked for Motorola and at several restaurants and hotels. She owned two horses while in Arizona, Rocky and Scout. She enjoyed showing and riding them.

In 1980, an opportunity to come to Alaska presented itself. Ursula and her son took the big step and traveled to Sitka. This was obviously a big change from Mesa, Arizona. It didn’t take long for her to appreciate living in a small town. She worked first at the Potlatch House, and then the Sheffield Hotel.

She moved from Sitka, back to Arizona in 1988. There she met and later married Alfonso (Al) Zertuche.

She worked for a hotel/resort in Casa Grande and Al was self-employed. They would take many weekend trips to Las Vegas or Laughlin. Following Al’s retirement in 2000, they moved to Del Rio, Texas, where Al was originally from. He passed away in 2008 and Ursula moved back to Sitka in 2013. She lived in the apartment at her son and daughter-in-law’s home until her death.

Ursula loved to cook for her family, spend time with family and friends, read, and walk her dog.

Although she had numerous health issues, she was always fiercely independent. She would hardly ever ask for any assistance.

“We will miss her stories, sense of humor, her tenacity and, of course, her cooking,” her family said.

Her survivors include her son Ron and daughter-in-law Sonja Conner of Sitka; grandson Chatham Conner and Samantha Sparks, and great-granddaughter Brigsleigh Conner, Sitka; grandsons Carson Conner of Wasilla and Josiah Hill of Montana; grandson Traz and Lanie Hill, and great-grandsons Bryson and Bryn of Idabel, Oklahoma; grandson Bailey Hill and great-granddaughter Mila Baylor of Spokane, Washington.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Brave Heart Volunteers or the Swan Lake Senior Center.


Memorial services will be announced at a later date.

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 9-17-21)

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 10:47 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 875

Total statewide – 96,002

Total (cumulative) deaths – 454

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 2,207

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

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 14 new COVID cases in the past 7 days, a rate of 187.73 per 100,000 population. Alert status will be high until the rate per thousand is below 100. Case statistics are as of Thursday.

New cases in Sitka – 5

Cases in last 7 days – 16

Cumulative Sitka cases – 946

Positive cumulative test results in Sitka, as of 9/10/21 – 1,090

Deceased (cumulative) – 3

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

• • •


Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Friday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 6,132 (83.03%)

Fully vaccinated – 5,991 (81.12%)

Total population (12+) – 7,385

Sitka has vaccinated fully vaccinated 89.85 percent of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at:





September 2001

Alaska Pacific Bank has opened an account for donations to be directed to the families of the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11. The account has been opened with a $2,000 contribution from the bank and an anonymous donor.

September 1971

At the Sitka Historical Society’s meeting Sunday, Mrs. Esther Billman of Sheldon Jackson College presented a “surprise package” of recent donations to the Sheldon Jackson Museum by Mr. Hugh Brady, youngest son of former Territorial Gov. John Brady.