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)

Former Sitkan Helen Austin Dies in Anchorage at Age 72

Helen Louise Austin

Helen Louise Austin was born June 2, 1949, in Burbank, California. She passed away on July 5, 2021, in Anchorage at the age of 72. 

Helen was the oldest daughter of the six children of James Leeroy “Lee” Coleman and Mary Jane Bixby. Her siblings included Dave Coleman, Mike Coleman (deceased June 30, 2002), Larry Coleman, Mary Ellen Strehlo and Carol Wilburn. 

In 1960, Helen’s parents moved to Anchorage, where she went to Clark Junior High and East High School. In 1966 the Coleman family moved to Sitka, where Helen graduated from Sitka High School. Helen married Gregory Keith “Bo” Austin December 12, 1968, and they had two children, Keith Sean Austin and Mistie Lee Austin. Bo and Helen raised their family primarily in Sitka where Helen worked at Alaska Lumber and Pulp. 

The Austins moved to Anchorage in 1984, but also spent time in Juneau and Kotzebue.  Helen worked as a baker in Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage, including Lakeside Grocery, The Fiddlehead, UAA, The Hilton, The Sheraton and the Governor’s Mansion Christmas Party. 

Helen had such a generous soul, always bringing joy through her gift of baking. She made the most beautiful and delectable desserts and would often donate trays of desserts for every event and gathering her children or grandchildren attended. Even if a friend needed baked goods for an event, suddenly 200 cookies and mini tarts would appear at the doorstep. A favorite recipe of Helen’s were her famous decadence and peanut butter pie.

She spent a great deal of time with her grandchildren – Ryan Austin, Alexander Austin, Nicholas Austin and Annabelle Austin – teaching them her recipes and techniques. Helen’s love was shared from the kitchen where she spent a great deal of time with the whole family. She had a stool that she always sat on in the kitchen, and this is where her children and grandchildren would gather.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents, James and Mary Jane, and her brother Mike. She is survived by her husband, Bo Austin; her children, Keith Austin and Misitie Austin; and grandchildren Ryan Austin, Alexander Austin, Nicholas Austin and Annabelle Austin.

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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.