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“Worriness is a bad sickness, makes all people get sick.”
“All my life I wanted to let them know. We need a calm day, a happy day all the time.”
From urban hospitals to rural clinics, Alaskans knew Della Keats, an Inupiat healer, as one who possessed a special “power” for healing the sick. At an early age, Della Keats became interested in human anatomy and folk medicine. She healed many Alaskans through traditional knowledge, personal observations, and reflection. She loved to teach people her “inupaiq ways of wellness.”
Born to wealth Louise Kellogg spent her lifetime spreading her energy, enthusiasm and benevolence to many causes. Her spirit of adventure led her to Alaska, and her love of hard work made her Spring Creek Farm into one of Alaska’s most productive dairy farms. Today, that farm houses Alaska Pacific University’s campus and education farm. Kellogg was a die-hard Republican, one of the few female pilots of the day, an Alaska pioneer and above all else, an extremely generous woman.
In June 1973 Kellogg created the DeWolf-Kellogg Trust, setting aside 700 acres in the Matanuska Valley for the use of the newly established Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University). She wanted a place for students to come and be with nature. “Let there be no doubt about it. My aim is to protect the land for use by private educational institutions, for without the serenity of fields and woods, animals and friendly birds in their natural setting, a private educational institution can offer only book learning, not real education.”
At age 94 Kellogg received the 1997 Alaskan of the Year Denali Award. She has also been awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from APU in 1984 and was the honored guest in the public celebration in Palmer on Memorial Day 2001 as Alaska’s oldest surviving veteran of World War II.
With a degree in English from Vassar in 1925 she left Chicago for California where her interests extended to the sky as she became a pilot and a member of the Powder Puffs. Some of her flights were across the country from California to Florida. Her time was divided between flying and volunteer work, serving as volunteer chair of the Outpatient Clinic of the Pasadena Hospital.
When World War II arrived, Kellogg enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1942 and was classified as a miscellaneous specialist. She first worked in classification and assignment of new personnel, but after just 18 months she went to officers’ school. Her main duty became the creation of a record of personal experiences of all the outfits of the WAC. Her time in the war was spaced over England, Germany and France. In 1945 she received an honorable discharge as a major.
Kellogg’s interest in farming came from her father, LeRoy DeWolf Kellogg, who had a farm on which the family would spend summers when she was growing up, and she brought that love of farming to Alaska in 1948. In Alaska no farmer would sell land to a single woman, especially one without farming experience, so Kellogg bought an unfinished farm of 240 acres, 10 cows, an incomplete barn and a cabin. As the farm grew, buildings were added, all of them she had personally designed. Soon she had the most extensive, state-of-the-art milking barn in Alaska. It included a loafing parlor to let the cattle in out of the snow. Local farmers who mocked her new facility were shocked as her farm quickly became successful and produced some of the best milk in the Mat-Su valleys. As other farms failed or farmers chose to leave Alaska, Kellogg bought up the land. At its height, Spring Creek Farm had more than 1,000 acres and milked more than 120 cows.
This woman’s interest stretched throughout Alaska. Kellogg was not someone to sit at home and knit. Her free time was filled with volunteer work or a variety of committee meetings. She wanted to have her hand in everything and was not a woman who could be “bossed around”. In 1957 she began to serve on the Board of Trustees for AMU. She felt that a private education was much better than one gained from a state school.
Kellogg was a leader in the Mat-Su valleys’ dairy industry and was instrumental in shaping the young Matanuska-Susitna Borough. She served as the only woman on the first Assembly (1963-1966). She ran for a seat in the state Legislature in the early 1970s, and was a trustee of Occidental College and the Palmer Public Library. Much of her energy was devoted to Joe Redington and his struggles in starting the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. She was also a member of the Mat-Su Valley Health Council, Mat-Su Taxpayers Association Board, Valley Hospital Association Board, Valley Hospital Foundation Board, Palmer Historical Society, Pioneers of Alaska Auxiliary No. 11 and the Arctic Institute of North America. She was involved in a committee that helped prevent billboards from being placed on highways in Alaska. Always interested in politics, Kellogg was very active in the Mat-Su Republican Women’s Club and the Republican Party in the valley.
Kellogg stopped dairy farming in 1980 but remained active in her many organizations and in life itself. Her family claims she drove like a “bat out of hell” until her license was taken away because she was 90 going 90. She was always an avid hostess and had many guests at her farm over the years.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/__g65UXajl8
Mary Lou King was born in Oregon in 1929 on a small farm near Crater Lake National Park. She grew up in the woods of Southern Oregon and was conscious early on about what can be done to beautify outdoor spaces. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education at Northwest Missouri State College and taught high school for one year in Iowa and six years in Oregon. At the end of the 7th year of teaching after deciding she might be an “old maid,” forever, she moved to Alaska for an adventure in 1958. In Juneau, she worked for the Territory of Alaska’s Department of Education serving rural students through a correspondence program. Thus started her passion for bringing locally relevant education to Alaskan students. She met Jim King through friends in Juneau, married in 1961 and lived in Fort Yukon, Fairbanks and Bethel before returning to Juneau in 1964. Jim worked as a waterfowl biologist all over the state for 30 years. King believes her finest accomplishments are her children: daughters Sara and Laura, born eleven months apart in 1962, who now live in Seattle and Portland and son James, born in 1967, who lives in Juneau.
Juneau is a healthier community because of King’s work and her “90 Trails” book. Hearthside Bookstore in Juneau reports that they sell more copies of this book each year than any other single book. Packets prepared by employers in town, including Juneau’s Bartlett Hospital and the University of Alaska Southeast include 90 Short Walks Around Juneau. King’s trail work and book have changed the habits of the people of Juneau, dog walkers, kid walkers, joggers, old people, and families. As she said herself in an interview with the Juneau Community Foundation, “If you get children outside, to recognize and learn about the environment and to appreciate it, that makes us all better caretakers of the world we live in.”
Her love of the outdoors led King through a long history of advocacy for nature and health. In the early 1970’s she helped instigate a movement to add separate bike paths to the roads in Juneau. Those legacy bike paths were established and have been expanded since then. She became active in the Juneau Audubon Society since it’s beginning in the 1970s and has been a member of the board almost continuously since then. In presenting her with the Great Egret Award in 2012, the National Audubon Society noted that, “Mary Lou King has served over the years as President, Newsletter Chair, Education Chair, Conservation Chair … and berry picker and Juneau Audubon jelly maker…” Also as an active member of the Taku Conservation Society, she was a leader in protecting public access to Juneau’s beaches as the town expanded as well as locating and identifying old mining routes and adding them and some new trails to the Juneau trails system. Her interests and advocacy are still very much present in the community.
In the early 1970s, parents in Juneau’s Auke Bay Grade School, valuing education about the local marine environment, maritime industry and history and culture, started a program called Sea Week. King jumped enthusiastically into this effort, and it was not long before she was leading it. Each winter she consulted tide books to determine when the lowest tides would occur during school hours, located beaches best for classes to be held, coordinated the transportation, and secured agency specialists who could lead the field trips. By 1980, Sea Week was mandated curriculum in Juneau School District’s elementary schools. Every class at every school went on two spring field trips, one to the beach at low tide and one to open to the public developed facilities such has the Glacier Visitor’s Center, Nation Marine Fisheries buildings, fish hatchery, museums and still do to this day.
Michael Kohan, Seafood Technical Director with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, testified to the lasting effects that Sea Week has on the life of Juneau students: “When talking about how I became a woman in seafood and science, I refer to the unique opportunity growing up in Southeast Alaska and being immersed in the hands-on education opportunities like Sea Week. The value of the Sea Week program is not just an education on the names of intertidal species, but it is an experience. An experience that links kids to asking questions, learning, exploring and eventually, like myself, following that intrigue to a path in science. …. When talking about the connection people in Alaska have to Alaska seafood, I reference Sea Week and the unique experience elementary school kids have when growing up in Southeast Alaska!” King continued to volunteer in schools after her own children graduated, including mentoring “many, many science fair projects.”
Mary Lou’s love of history and Native culture resulted not only in learning difficult techniques of basket making in cedar bark and spruce roots, but also in Chilkat weaving techniques. She learned the correct season, soil condition and weather to go out and ‘harvest’ the spruce roots and then prepare them. Over the years she taught classes in basketry and weaving. She used these skills to contribute in many ways. After the discovery of a 700-year-old Tlingit fish trap in Juneau in 2006, she constructed a model of a trap and donated it to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Today this exhibit is one of the most popular hands-on exhibits in the museum and teaches children and the public about all the ways a fish trap can be made and how it catches fish.
King was the editor and contributed articles for decades to the newsletters of the Juneau Audubon Society and the Ravenstail Weavers’ Guild. She also authored numerous pamphlets for the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. According to Kay Parker, President, Ravenstail Weavers’ Guild, “Her support of the Northwest Coast Arts has founded a Northwest Coast University Art endowment at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), where King was a substitute teacher for basketry and material collection and preparation. Jane Lindsey, Director of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum praised King’s interest in history and local settlements: “Mary Lou King has supported the Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s history and cultural interpretation for many years. As the author of the 90 Short Walks, Treadwell Mine Historic Trail Guide, and co-author of Last Chance Mining Museum & Historical Park, Mary Lou has worked diligently to encourage historic trail exploration and preservation. The Museum has carried these booklets in our gift shop for many years and they are still popular with visitors.”
Much of Mary Lou’s work locally and regionally has impacted the state as well. Sea Week in Juneau became the Alaska Sea and River Week program through the support of the Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university took her successful program to the state level and revised King’s local Sea Week guides to be the Alaska Seas and Rivers Week Guides. King’s use of informed parents leading classes on minus-tide walks, rainforest walks and birds walks with lectures and lessons from US Coast Guard safety personnel, Alaska Fish and Game Department wildlife biologists, Fish and Wildlife biologists and NOAA University oceanographers has remained the model. In 2004, King and her husband Jim were jointly awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Alaska Conservation Foundation for their contributions to the state of Alaska. The stated purpose of this award is “To celebrate the accomplishments of remarkable individuals who have made a difference by devoting significant parts of their lives to protecting and enhancing Alaska’s natural greatness, and thanks them for their tireless dedication and advocacy.” King was also recognized twice for her help in identifying and photographing two new species to the official Alaska state checklist of birds. The species were the green-backed heron (August 1983, #407) and the scissor-tailed flycatcher (July 2002, #469).
King joined the effort in the 1970’s to protect Admiralty Island by writing letters, campaigning for protection, and relying on a scientific study about the impact on the island’s wildlife. The campaign was successful and the area was protected through the establishment of Admiralty National Monument in 1978, then in statute in 1980 in the Alaska National Interest Lands Claims Act. The Forest Service now manages the island, which hosts a mine, but also provides the nation a special natural and cultural area for generations to come. In 1999 Mary Lou and Jim King made a legacy contribution to their community by leaving land from their homestead at the edge of the tide flats to the Southeast Alaska Land Trust. Mary Lou and Jim King continue to live in Juneau and to advocate for the interests they’ve been involved in throughout their lives there. Their son James became the first Executive Director of Trail Mix, Inc. a nonprofit corporation that works with the agencies to manage the Juneau trails system. He later served as the Alaska’s State Parks Director. He currently lives in Juneau with his wife Christine and their four kids where he works for the U.S. Forest Service as the regional Director of Recreation, Lands and Minerals.
Brenda Wright, a friend and colleague who nominated King for this award described why she tapped her for the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame award:
She is a charismatic person who can draw one into her projects with her enthusiasm. She drafts someone, then mentors and teaches them and then they go on to contribute and to leadership and then she works and helps the next volunteer. Whether the project is fundraising by manufacturing dozens of cedar bark animal ornaments, or producing local fruit jam five batches at a time, or working with City Planning Department staff, or lobbying the legislature, or advocating in Congress, she commits herself wholly to the project she is involved in and is a role model for all. She mentored a whole community to recognize the richness of our intertidal and natural gifts.
The Great Egret Award, The National Audubon Society, 2012. “In recognition of generous contributions in preserving the history of the Juneau-Douglas area.”
Lifetime Achievement Award, Gastineau Channel Historical Society, 2007.
Lifetime Achievement Award, The Alaska Conservation Foundation, 2004, with husband Jim.
Volunteer Service Recognition, Southeast Alaska Land Trust, 1999.
Conservation Award for Exceptional Service, State of Alaska, Alaska State Museum, Governor Tony Knowles, 1996.
Citizen Participation Award in Recognition of Service through Gold and Blue Ribbon Capital City Citizens Committee, Chevron, 1989.
Governor’s Volunteer Award of the Year, Juneau School District, 1986.
Special Commendation for Valuable Public Service, State of Alaska, Governor Bill Sheffield, 1986.
Juneau Community Education Volunteer Award of the Year, City and Borough of Juneau, Mayor Fran Ulmer, 1985.
Conservation Educator of the Year Award, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of Interior, Washington, DC, 1983.
Single handedly, Mary Lou raised Juneau consciousness to the magnificence and uniqueness of our home. By developing the underlying structure of the base curriculum, the rotating low tide beach use, the use of professional agencies to support classroom and field experiences, she brought environment to the forefront for every child.
— Susan Baxter, retired teacher and former Juneau Sea Week Coordinator
Mary Lou is such a kind and generous lady who is open to learning – perhaps one of the reasons she was part of the group of Sea Week organizers. Growing up with Sea Week as a part of our spring time learning was always exciting for me because it mirrored my experiences outside of school – we were always going to the beaches or along shorelines for various reasons – food gathering, playing, picnics, etc. As an elementary teacher this is a natural opportunity for me to integrate Tlingit ecological knowledge and language along with the science curriculum of Sea Week. We also try to go to the beach at different times of the year to see similarities and differences. I am thankful for the program, and humbled to know Mary Lou King.
— Hans Chester, Tlingit Language & Culture Teacher, Juneau School District
My first work in Alaska was learning from Mary Lou about how to teach Alaskan students about the natural and cultural world around them. I’ve applied what Mary Lou taught me then in every job I’ve had since. The philosophy of education she modeled in Sea Week in Juneau and the basic tenets of community members’ involvement in their students’ education have stayed with me and been promoted by me in every position I’ve held. And beyond my professional life, Mary Lou was simply a role model for living and the kind of person to be for me when I started life in Alaska. That will stay with me always.
— Peggy Cowan, past Superintendent of Juneau School District and North Slope Borough School District
Mary Lou has been a role model for me ever since I met her 30 years ago. We were both part of a small dedicated group of weavers that wove a Ravenstail Robe for the Alaska State Museum in Juneau when Ravenstail weaving was just beginning its resurgence. Her dedication to this art form and to basketry are obvious to all that know her . . . in her practice of these art forms, but also in the joy of teaching others and creating educational material that will help beginners. Mary Lou’s endless energy for weaving and the enjoyment she gets from sharing the simple pleasure of weaving and her knowledge of the sense of accomplishment, pride and value this weaving can bring to a person’s life are what inspire me to continue teaching Ravenstail weaving.
— Kay Parker, head of Ravenstail Weaver’s Guild
Show up at Mary Lou’s on weaving morning and you will be starting a basket and having the time of your life!”
King, J.G., King, M.L. Birds in Alaska’s south coastal environment: A workbook and Field Guide.
King, M.L. (2015). 90 short walks around Juneau. Discovery Southeast Taku Conservation Society Trail Mix, Inc.
King, M.L., Ekins, E. (2011). Nature detectives on our favorite trails.
Other materials developed by Mary Lou King:
“My Favorite Wild Southeast Alaska Berries and Greens”, “Illustrated Instructions for Twined Spruce Root or Cedar Bark Basket and a Model Spruce Fish Trap”, “Treadwell Mine Historic Trail, Juneau-Douglas Mining District, Walking Tour map & Historic Guide”, text Mary Lou King, “Perseverance Trail, Trail Guide”, coordinated by Mary Lou King and Paul Emerson, Eagle Beach State Recreation Area brochure (editor and contributor) Outer Point Trail
Jim and Mary Lou King, Interview by the Juneau Community Foundation. Accessed at http://juneaucf.org/index.php/king/.
Mary Lou King. Hearthside Bookstore. Accessed at http://www.hearthsidebooks.com/localauthors/214320.
King, Jim & Mary Lou (Neville). Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Parks & Recreation, City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska. Accessed at: http://www.juneau.org/parkrec/museum/forms/GCM/readarticle.php?UID=923&newxtkey=.