Longtime Sitkan Betty M. Allen Dies

Category: Obituaries
Created on Friday, 08 October 2021 16:06
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Betty Marie Allen (Kaajisdushí, L.áat’k’)

 

Betty Marie Allen (Kaajisdushí, L.áat’k’) died peacefully at home on October 1, surrounded by family. She was 89.  

Betty was born in Juneau to Ruth (Kudaxsaneegí) and Herb (Aanaxké) Martin. She was Kaagwaantaan, of the Kook Hit House, T’akdeintaan yádi. Her Tlingit lineage is embedded in the region surrounding Glacier Bay; her European ancestors were early Russian settlers in Alaska. 

Some of her favorite childhood memories included family fishing trips between Juneau and Funter Bay aboard her dad’s troller; watching the light of the lanterns on the helmets of the miners at the A-J Mine, as they would enter and leave the mine for the night shifts, remarking in pride of her father’s being the first Tlingit motorman operator in the mine; and spending summers in Hawk Inlet, playing along the shores as a young girl and later working side by side with her mother and siblings at the cannery.

Betty and her three sisters and three brothers attended federal schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Juneau, Wrangell, and Sitka. She graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe Boarding School in 1950 with honors, and was an active member of the basketball team.

She also attended business school in Seattle before returning to Juneau to help her family.  

Upon her return, Betty worked as a waitress at Angelo’s. She jokingly told of a crabber who ate there often, but never left very good tips. She later married this crabber, Robert Ernest Allen, in 1962. They moved to Kodiak where they rode out the Great Alaska Earthquake.

Betty and Bob moved to Sitka with their five children, Valerie, Natalie, Rob, Jennifer and Dave, in 1967. Betty was a full partner in building the business that became Allen Marine, from a small boatyard and a single salvaged vessel to a regional tourism and marine transportation powerhouse. She was a steady and cautious counterweight to Bob’s ingenuity and daring; together they were a perfect team. 

In Sitka, Betty was a pillar of St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox cathedral for decades, serving as treasurer for both the Sisterhood and the “church.” She worked closely with numerous bishops and priests to carry on the traditions of the orthodox faith. Her dedication to her faith over the years was acknowledged with the St. Herman’s Cross. 

She was also actively involved with the Alaska Native Sisterhood in the 1970s. 

In 2006, Betty worked closely with her children and Kaagwaantaan elders to commission a totem pole for her family home. The pole, designed and carved by renowned artist Nathan Jackson (Yéil Yádi, L’uknax.ádi clan), was raised in 2007. The event was celebrated with a Ku.éex’, a traditional party designed to ensure balance between moieties in the Tlingit culture. Betty saw the commission and party as a gift to her children – who received new names at the event – and future generations, as well as a way to strengthen and invest in Tlingit art and heritage.  

Betty’s family was raised during a time with extreme limitations for Alaskan Natives. However, she built on the lessons of her parents and never used this as an excuse to not thrive in all aspects of her life. She passed these lessons on to her family, always putting them front and center in her life. Her kind and generous spirit has  created a lifetime of memories revolving around daily visits, special events and holidays with amazing dinners, decor and gifts.

This drive to take care of others carried over into the local community with continual support of  St. Michael’s Cathedral, The Salvation Army, Sitkans Against Family Violence, youth activities, school fundraisers, and The Giving Tree.

Betty was preceded in death by her husband Bob; her parents Ruth and Herb Martin; siblings Geraldine, Herb, and Danny; and her beloved granddaughter Melinda.

She leaves her siblings Tillie Hines, George Martin and Johanna Colfer; children Valerie Martin (Steve), Natalie Allen, Rob Allen (Robin), Jennifer “Kipper” Oen (Eric) and Dave Allen (Lauren); and grandchildren Jamey Cagle (Melinda), Evan Martin (Emily), Chris Oen (Kaley), Claire Gentry (Michael), Stephen Martin (Krisy), Sarah Leclerc (Hank), Zaide Allen (Parker), Sabena Allen and Zia Allen.

She also leaves 19 great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, and numerous nieces and nephews.   

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the fund for rehabilitation of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

A Panikhida service will be held on 7:30 p.m. tonight, Oct. 8 at the Cathedral. A traditional Russian Orthodox funeral service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 at St. Michael’s, followed by interment at Sitka Memorial Park at 2:30 p.m.

To safeguard the health of the community, the family respectfully requests that guests observe all health and safety protocols established by the City, which is the protocol the Cathedral is following. Please wear a mask and social distance. A public memorial will be held at a later date.