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Kay Muriel (Townsend) Linton

Photo of Kay Muriel (Townsend) Linton
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Biography

Mrs. Jack (Kay) Linton, as she preferred to be identified, was a dynamo, a volunteer extraordinaire, consummate organizer and inveterate volunteer and, to quote former Mayor Tom Fink, “a real take-charge person.”

Anchorage Daily News columnist Mike Doogan said, “She was an organizer, and if you were in the vicinity, you got organized.” Gov. Tony Knowles is quoted as saying: “To know Kay was to work for Kay.” Alaska’s furrier Perry Green called Linton “a volunteer’s volunteer – someone who would never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”

Born in Newcastle, Wyo., Feb. 26, 1933, Linton was the oldest of five children, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Wyoming homesteaders. Her organizational skills began early when it was up to her to amuse her siblings and visiting cousins with picnics and trips to shoot a few jackrabbits.

In 2001 after receiving the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts recognizing Alaskans who have “distinguished themselves in their careers and exemplify the values of Scouting in the professional, personal and civic activities,” Linton told them her obsession to do for others stems from pre-birth. After her mother gave birth to her early, she was wrapped in a towel and set on the oven door while the doctors worked to save her mother’s life.  She has tried to pay it forward ever since.

She talked “passionately about her childhood days in her father’s oil field where she swung on a swing made of oil pipe … and hunted treasures like shark teeth, fossils and arrowheads and giant geodes,” she told S. Jane Szabo, reporter for the Anchorage Daily News in 1997.

She received her early education in a one-room schoolhouse, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Black Hill State University in 1955 and took classes toward her master’s degree at the University of Wyoming.

Linton married Jack M. Linton on Aug. 26, 1958, in Wyoming. Two years later she drove a red and white ’58 Thunderbird up the Alaska Highway with her infant daughter and her 15-year-old brother to join her husband. Jack Linton was working in the real estate loan department of First National Bank. Anchorage was somewhat of a small town, only 82,833 people. It was very remote from the rest of the country with long-distance telephone rates very high and television which arrived on videotape at least two weeks late. She was far away from her family and “felt stifled and unhappy, but her marriage was strong,” she told Linda Billington in an interview in 1991. She decided to “find a need and fill it” which became her motto. Thus her professional career as a volunteer organizing, chairing and championing causes and projects began.

Linton taught second and fifth grades at North Star Elementary School, focusing on emotionally disturbed children. During that time she and her husband heard about the opportunity to homestead 160 acres in the Matanuska Valley off Fishhook Road. She and her young daughter lived there during the proving-up period and her husband drove the rough roads to and from every other day. The bulk of the work of digging a well and building a livable dwelling was hers.

In 1977 the Lintons, with partners Jerry Groseclose and G. J. “Red” Huggins, started the Golden Lion Hotel, a place that staged many a party, anniversary and charity lunch and dinner.

Especially proud of two of her biggest projects, Linton knew how to celebrate the anniversaries of Alaska’s 25 years of statehood in 1984, and Anchorage’s 75 years in 1990. It only took two and a half hours to sell 950 Fred Machetanz prints called “Heritage of Alaska”, signed by Alaska’s first five governors which netted $194,000. Governors Egan, Hickel, Miller, Hammond and Sheffield made the event possible since Alaska was the only state to have all of their past governors still living.

For Anchorage Linton organized through the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce the re-enactment of the town as a tent city of 1915 along Ship Creek and of the land call-out auction which sold the lots of Anchorage from the federal government.

As president of the Anchorage Women’s Club she negotiated a lease with the Municipality of Anchorage to move, preserve and maintain Anchorage’s first schoolhouse which was built in 1915.  It is now called the Pioneer Schoolhouse and is located at 437 East 3rd Avenue. It is used as a public meeting place now. Thousands of school children met the first Anchorage school principal (Kay Linton, dressed as Miss Orah Dee Clark) in their tour and were able to see what schools used to look like.

Linton was also known for her organization of time capsules. Some of the more memorable ones are buried near the Anchorage Log Cabin, the Pioneer Schoolhouse, the Eisenhower Memorial as well as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs home base in Washington, D.C.

In 1997 Gov. Tony Knowles designated April 30 of that year as Kay Linton Day for her indefatigable efforts. His citation declared that there was one need that had not been filled, that of a “pat on the back for the consummate volunteer.” Although an incomplete list, her efforts earned awards: Alaskan of the Year, 1993; Anchorage 75th Anniversary Chair, 1990; Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Gold Pan, 1990;  Alaska Flag Day celebration, a fund-raiser for Alaska Children’s Services, founder of Celebrity Ice Cream Scoop and participant, 1990-1997; BP Book Wish List for Anchorage Municipal Libraries, founder and organizer, 1986-1997; First Lady’s Volunteer Awards, coordinator and chairwoman, 1980-1997; General Federation of Women’s Clubs: Alaska Federation of Women’s Clubs, president, 1978-80. Anchorage Women’s Club, president, 1992-94; Governor’s Picnic committee, member, 1964 to 1997, picnic chair 1995-97; Friends of the Library, president, 1987; Anchorage Pioneers for Historic Preservation, charter member, 1991-1997; American Diabetes Association Volunteer of the Year, 1994; Orah Dee Clark, created and acted in the role of Anchorage’s first principal, 1990-1997; Pioneers of Alaska, “Fond Memories” committee, 1995; Soroptimist International of Anchorage Woman of Distinction, 1995; Tent City Festival, coordinator, 1990; Ladies Oriental Shrine, Waheed Court 81; Sew Sews, member; Winter Cities Anchorage ’94, vice chair, 1993; U.S.S. Alaska Executive Board, 1986; Miss Alaska Scholarship Pageant, executive director, 1963-76; Alaska Election Commission, member, 1993; Anchorage inaugural activities: Chair of Tony Knowles’ mayoral (1987) and gubernatorial (1995) inaugurations; gubernatorial inauguration for Wally Hickel 1991, mayoral inauguration for Tom Fink 1991; Governor’s Award, 1991; O.M.A.R./Resource Development Council, one of 49 founders; Mrs. Senior Alaska, judge, 1997; Miss Alaska Queen’s Hostess Club for visiting Miss Americas and other pageant winners, founded in 1965; Alaskan of the Year Committee, coordinator, 1976-1997; Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, Swaziland, Nursing Fund; Friends of 4th Avenue Theatre, member, 1986; Anchor Park United Methodist Church, member since 1960. Other activities in which Linton participated include: Alaska-Siberia Medical Research Program, Gold Nuggets Booster Club, State spelling bee and Alaska Academic Decathlon judge, Alaska Methodist University Campus Ministry, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Afternoon at the Lion fundraiser for Shrine Children’s Hospital, Anchorage Widowed Persons Services.

Linton was very proud of the fact that her accomplishments never used government or taxpayers’ money.  It was given by those who believed in the cause, many times with lots of encouragement from her.

The wing-shaped fountain or ice sculpture on the south lawn of the Loussac Library is named after Kay Linton through a formal request of Mayor Mark Begich and an Anchorage Assembly resolution unanimously passed in 2004 because of her tireless fund raising efforts for library programs and the fountain maintenance and repairs.

Linton got involved with the construction of the fountain in the mid-80s organizing fundraising efforts. The water was shut off in 1994 due to constant costly repairs and maintenance but she never lost hope.  She began fundraising again in 1999 but time and her bad health would not to allow this project to be completed before her death.  The efforts were taken over by her son-in-law Kris Warren, an executive with Anchorage Water and Waste Water, and through his and many others work Linton’s dream was completed.

Indefatigable to the end, in the last weeks before her death Linton had been writing a section of a book about Alaska pioneers and was worried she wouldn’t meet the deadline, said Michelle Cassano, a longtime friend. She met the deadline.

Linton and her husband raised two children, Dawn Linton-Warren and Richard Linton.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/Bl_7Ahl1t4I

Notes

When Kay Linton’s name, or Mrs. Jack (Kay) Linton’s as she preferred, comes up, the words volunteer extraordinaire, consummate organizer and inveterate volunteer are usually close by. When other parts of speech are used, Linton is always described as a true professional volunteer in the superlative sense and as positive, kind, jovial, thoughtful and respectful of her team of volunteers who never were to be called workers in her presence.

Anchorage Daily News columnist Mike Doogan said, “She was an organizer, and if you were in the vicinity, you got organized.” Gov. Tony Knowles is quoted as saying: “To know Kay was to work for Kay.” Alaska’s furrier Perry Green called Linton “a volunteer’s volunteer – someone who would never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”

Linton arrived in Anchorage in 1960. She was far away from her family and “felt stifled and unhappy, but her marriage was strong,” she told Linda Billington in an interview in 1991. She decided to “find a need and fill it” which became her motto. Thus her professional career as a volunteer organizing, chairing and championing causes and projects began.

Especially proud of two of her biggest projects, Linton knew how to celebrate the anniversaries of Alaska’s 25 years of statehood in 1984, and Anchorage’s 75 years in 1990. It only took two and a half hours to sell 950 Machetanz “Heritage of Alaska” prints signed by Alaska’s first five governors which netted $194,000. For Anchorage Linton organized the re-enactment of the town as a tent city of 1915 along Ship Creek.

She was also known for her creation of time capsules. Some of the more memorable ones are buried near the Anchorage Pioneer Schoolhouse, the Anchorage Log Cabin, the Eisenhower Memorial as well as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs base in Washington, D.C.

The wing-shaped fountain or ice sculpture on the south lawn of the Loussac Library is named after Kay Linton through a formal request of Mayor Mark Begich and an Anchorage Assembly resolution unanimously passed in 2004 because of her tireless fund raising efforts for library programs and the fountain maintenance and repairs.

Community projects with her name on them are far too numerous to name but they ranged from inventing and naming “Will U Readmore,” the library system’s mascot owl, to arranging for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to give a free public lecture in Anchorage, to planning the Miss Alaska Pageants, to chairing the governors’ picnics and staging their inaugural balls regardless of their political party, to organizing the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Gold Pan awards.

To name just a few of the major awards she received over her more than 40 years of volunteering: Alaskan of the Year, Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America (the first woman to be given this award), two Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Gold Pans and YWCA Woman of Achievement.

Indefatigable to the end, in the last weeks before her death Linton had been writing a section of a book about Alaska pioneers and was worried she wouldn’t meet the deadline, said Michelle Cassano, a longtime friend. The deadline was met.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/Bl_7Ahl1t4I