Celebration of Life Set For Bertha L. Karras

Category: Obituaries
Created on Friday, 29 April 2022 22:24
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Bertha Lucille Karras


A celebration of the life of Bertha Lucille Karras will be held 11 a.m. September 25, 2022, at Centennial Hall.

Bertha passed away on April 19 at her son’s home in Juneau. She was 90.

She was born to Mark Jacobs Sr. (Káshkhwei) and Annie Paul Jacobs (Sxhaalghén) on August 20, 1931, at Chatham Cannery, and soon after was baptized as Iosefina into the Russian Orthodox Church. She attended the Sitka Government School and Sheldon Jackson High School.  

Bertha was Dakhl’aweidí from Keet Hít (Killerwhale House) in Angoon. Her Tlingit names were Kh’udéi, after her maternal grandmother Mary Bell Paul; Ghuneiteen after Fannie Friday;  and Át Woogóodi Áa (Walking Lake) from a story in her clan’s migration. She was Deisheetaan yádi (child of the Deisheetaan) through Mark Jacobs, Sr. (Káshkhwei) whose father, Noble Johnson (Toonáxh), was Teikhweidí which made her Teikhweidí dachxhán (grandchild).

Born into a Tlingit speaking world she loved to speak the language with anyone, at any time, anywhere, and with anyone who was willing to listen and speak it with her.  She often asked, “Are they having Tlingit classes anywhere?!”  

She met her future husband, Pete Karras, who had moved to Sitka to work at the  Geodetic Survey Station after World War II, at a dance.  After about three years of dating they got engaged. He was Greek Orthodox and she was Russian Orthodox so they were married on September 27, 1952, at the Presbyterian Church and would remain married for 65 wonderful years.  

She served as a Tlingit & Haida delegate for Sitka more than 25 years, during which time she also served on the Tribe’s Enrollment Committee where her knowledge of family trees, Tlingit names, and connections proved invaluable to the enrollment process. She retired as a delegate in 2017 so she could spend more time with family, and was selected by the Executive Council as Tribal Hostess for the 83rd Annual Tribal Assembly.

For many years, Bertha and her husband ran Karras Bed & Breakfast in Sitka, which was well-known for the gourmet breakfasts they served every morning. They met many people from all over the world. She previously worked in the cannery, as a telephone operator for the Sitka Telephone Co., and at Alaska Lumber & Pulp Co. 

As her husband’s health declined she stayed with him nearly 24/7 and although it took a toll on her own health, she would never have had it any other way and would have done it all over again.  Her strength came from being a “prayer warrior,” strong in her faith and willing to stop and pray at a moment’s notice for anyone, anywhere. This little Tlingit woman probably moved more mountains than any televangelist ever did.  Proverbs 31: 10-31 is who Bertha was.

They traveled to Greece to look for his family connections, and also to Japan where they met with the Ainu people and she shared her clan’s killer whale history and songs.

In the past three years since Pete passed, she has lived with her children in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and North Carolina where she continued with her years of story telling, praying, and loving.  She loved all of her family equally and with all of her heart.  She loved car rides, desserts, and traveling to see her family and many friends.  Her home was always open.

She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; her brothers Harvey Jacobs Sr., Mark Jacobs Jr., Hamilton Jacobs, Franklin Jacobs and Wally Jacobs; her sister Rosie Osborne; her daughter Georgina Kacyon, and infant children Donna Marie and Frederick George.  A joyful reunion has now taken place with all of them.

She is survived by her children Pam Eby (Carter) of North Carolina, Pete Jr., Mike (and Cindy) Karras of Anchorage, Cass Pook (and Stuart) of Sitka, and Ernie Karras (and Stacie) of Juneau; her grandchildren Jeremiah Kacyon, Karen Sites, Jenae Eby, Tim Eby, Shawn Eby, Corban Eby, Crystal Karras, Corinne Parker, Clara Walley, Catherine Karras, Cheryl Karras, Cynthia Karras, Cassandra Branthoover, Chloe Turner, Cayla Pook, Seth Pook, Cedar Pook, Firey Karras and Robert Karras; and 17 great-grandchildren.

Also surviving are her sister, Ruth Suckinaw of Ketchikan, and sister/cousin Jean Hogue and brother/cousin Jerry Gamble both of Washington, and LaVerne Wise of Washington, Ron Paul and Norma Balancir, as well as many nieces and nephews.

The family expressed its thanks, especially to Fr. Simeon, who stopped by to pray with her several times; daughter-in-law Stacie, who sat up with her for many days and nights; her niece Roberta Wolfe, who spent many hours by her side; and to the many people who stopped by, left Facebook messages, called or prayed.  

Correspondence may be sent to: Cass Pook, 104 Kelly St., Sitka, AK 99835.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Sitka Salvation Army, 405 Sawmill Creek Road.