Marilyn Hanson Dies; Was Sitkan Since 1963


Marilyn Dahl Hanson died at her home in Sitka in the early hours of Sunday, May 15, 2022, at the age of 89. Her husband was with her.

Marilyn was born in Marinette, Wisconsin, February 10, 1933, the fourth of eight children born to Herman and Avis Dahl. Herman was a dairy farmer and worked local manufacturing jobs. Avis was a homemaker and caretaker for the children. Avis died at 51; Herman survived her until 71.

Marilyn’s siblings, oldest to youngest, are: Joyce (Dahl) Bittner, husband Lawrence, six children; Lester Dahl, wife Gloria, three children; Glen Dahl, wife Donna, four children; Herman Dahl, Jr., unmarried at death, no children; Gerry (Dahl) Gosdeck, husband Donald, three children; Dianne (Dahl) Slavik, husband Ray, one child, two children from a previous marriage; and Douglas Dahl, wife Mary, three children from a previous marriage. Dianne, the seventh of the eight siblings, lives in De Pere, Wisconsin, and is the sole survivor of the siblings. Marilyn’s siblings had a combined 19 children, of whom 17 survive. Many of them still live in Wisconsin.

Marilyn grew up and went to high school in Marinette where she met her future husband Kent Burleigh Hanson, who was a year ahead of her. He graduated in 1950, she in 1951. Kent went to college at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, and Marilyn went to college for two years at Valparaiso College in Valparaiso, Indiana. She and Kent were married in Marinette on August 29, 1953.

Marilyn and Kent quickly started a family and ended up with a big one – seven children. Marilyn left college to care for the children. Kent became a high school teacher and started his career in Daggett, Michigan, in 1956. After a year in Daggett, the family moved to Menominee, Michigan, a town adjacent to Marinette separated by the Menominee River, where Kent continued teaching high school. 

Marilyn continued to care for the children, which by 1962 amounted to five boys. In 1963, the family moved to Sitka – quite an adventure for a large family leaving a large extended family behind in Wisconsin.

Kent took a job at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, which was then operated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. For several of the early years, Marilyn managed a federal employee service organization on Japonski Island called SAFE (Service Activities for Federal Employees), which operated a movie theater, a social hall, a single gas pump, a two-lane bowling alley, and a single page newsletter. The older children assisted with operating the theater, gas pump, and bowling alley, and delivering the newsletter.

After arriving in Sitka, Marilyn and Kent added two girls to the family. 

Marilyn and Kent’s children and grandchildren, oldest to youngest, are: Steven Kent Hanson, of Cary, North Carolina, wife Lynell (Nelson) Hanson, children Derek, Aaron, and Jordan; Kim Eric Hanson, of Sitka, wife Jill (Hearn) Hanson, children Tristan and Brianne; Brian Earl Hanson, of Sitka, partner Sara Bergendahl, two children from a previous marriage, Van and Max; Jon Jay Hanson, deceased, children Camille (Hanson) Miller and Cara (Hanson) Brenton; James Arthur Hanson, of Sitka, wife Patricia (Mestepey) Hanson; Jennifer Eileen (Hanson) Mayville, of Bellingham, Washington, husband Darin Mayville, children Tyler and Mikayla, and two children from a previous marriage, Jeremy and Chelsea; and Juli Kay (Hanson) Skyum, of Voorshoten, Netherlands, husband Michael Skyum, children Levi and Denali.

In all, the Hansons have 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

In 1971, Marilyn became the first woman to be permanently appointed by the Alaska Court System as a magistrate judge. She served the First Judicial District with distinction until her retirement in 1989. Marilyn was a woman of great kindness and compassion, and those attributes served her well as magistrate. She was loved by her fellow judges, clerks, co-workers, and even many of the citizens she was tasked with judging.

After retiring, Marilyn provided Guardian Ad Litem services to the court system for many years when she represented the interests of children. She was well suited for that position being a champion for children.

Beyond her family and work, Marilyn had two constants in her life – Church and Bridge. She was a woman of unyielding Christian faith and a warrior with prayer. She was a member of Sitka Lutheran Church – ELCA. She was devoted to the church – teaching Sunday school, serving on the council, providing bookkeeping services, singing in the choir, and volunteering frequently. Her favorite fundraising event was the Alaska Day pie sale to which she donated pies and served as cashier. She was loved by her pastors and congregation.

Marilyn learned to play bridge when she was a teenager, and spent adulthood regularly playing the game. The bridge games rotated between households and were even played on several trips on the Alaska Marine Highway. She was known as a skilled, kind, respectful, and fun-loving player to all, although she did have a healthy competitive spirit for the few dollars at stake. She was loved by her fellow bridge players.

Marilyn and Kent shared many things during their life together but most of all it was the fine arts. They loved classical music, plays, dance, poetry, literature, and visual arts. They were lifelong members of and generous financial contributors to the Sitka Music Festival. They attended most local performances of classical music, plays, and dance. They were avid supporters of youth productions of fine and contemporary arts. They loved operas, and traveled to Seattle to see them. For decades they annually attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, seeing multiple productions each time. At any classical music performance, play, dance performance, poetry and book reading, and visual art display in Sitka, Marilyn and Kent likely would be there. After her retirement, Marilyn enjoyed traveling. She and Kent went to France, England, and Scotland, and she traveled to Germany with her sister-in-law, Donna. She traveled to China to visit her daughter, Juli. And, of course, there were many trips to Wisconsin and other places in the lower forty-eight to visit family and friends. 

Marilyn was a dedicated civic volunteer and public servant. Her crowning achievement was her decades-long service to Youth Advocates of Sitka, a non-profit organization which provides mental health services to youth. She was a founding member of its board of directors and past president. The YAS residential facility is named Hanson House in her honor. She was loved by her fellow board members and staff. She also served on the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Citizens Council from 1976 to 1997. She was also honored in 2000 by the Soroptimist Club of Sitka as a “Woman of Distinction.”

Marilyn was an accomplished piano player who kept her playing private – she used her piano as refuge. She was a musical inspiration to her children. She was an avid reader, a bowler and a softball player. She was a fan of the sports played by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She especially loved baseball and softball, and could be seen regularly at the ballfields around town watching from her car or from a chair along the fence line.

Marilyn was loved by her family and friends, and well respected in the community. She will be missed but never forgotten. The family will hold a celebration of her life in late July, with the date and place to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Sitka Lutheran Church, Sitka Music Festival, and/or Youth Advocates of Sitka.

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At a Glance

(updated 6-29-22)

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 12:15 pm Wednesday, June 29.

New cases as of Wednesday: 2,123

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 261,987

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,252

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,772

Current Hospitalizations – 87

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

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "High.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Cases in last 7 days – 22

Cumulative Sitka cases – 2,763

Hospitalizations (to date) – 29

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






June 2002

Photo caption: The ANB team celebrates after winning the Sitka Major League tournament. From left are Billy Allery, Gordon Reeder, Chris Scott, Ross Venneberg, Cole Venneberg, Kale Vilandre, Cedar Mayo, Rhys Kimmel, Leslie Isaacs, Ian Blair, Kory Hansen and Kyle Foot.



June 1972

For the second year in a row, Don Barton Jr., a Washington state logger, has walked off with the All-Alaska Logging Championship all-around logger trophy. Two other former winners, Mike McGraw (1968) and Jack Adams (1970), again placed high.