Sketches of 100 Yukon Presbyterians

(Not in alphabetical order, but

somewhat in order of appearance)

(click here for alphabetical listing)


Sheldon Jackson

"The greatest missionary the world has ever seen since the Apostle Paul" and United States Commissioner of Education for Alaska. Jackson was graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1857 and worked extensively in the mission fields of the American West before focusing his attention on the educational, spiritual and social needs of Alaska from 1877 until his death in 1909.

Amanda McFarland

Missionary-teacher who arrived in Wrangell with Sheldon Jackson on August 10, 1877. McFarland spent the following 20 years of her life teaching Native young people and attempting to protect them from witchcraft, slavery and prostitution. She worked in Wrangell, Sitka and Howkan (Hydaburg). She retired at the age of 65 and died in 1913, at the age of 80.

Clah (Philip McKay)

Canadian Indian who first began Christian work at Fort Wrangell, prior to the arrival of Jackson and McFarland in 1877. Clah died of tuberculosis shortly after the arrival of McFarland and it was his work that she carried on.

John Brady

0ne of Sheldon Jackson's first missionary recruits to Alaska who was appointed governor of the Territory in 1897. The two men worked hand in hand.

Leander Stevenson

First teacher-missionary to arrive in Barrow, 1890. Singularly unsuccessful in making Christian converts.

Frederick Thornton

First missionary to Cape Prince of Wales, 1892, and only known American missionary to die at the hands of the Eskimo. He was buried at Wales in 1893.

Vene and Mrs. Gambell

Missionary-teachers who arrived on St. Lawrence Island in August 1894 to serve at mission church built in 1887 at Chibuchack. The church had been built but had not yet had a pastor. The Gambell family was drowned in a shipwreck in 1898 and the village was named in their honor.

Dr. Horatio Marsh

Second medical-missionary sent to Barrow, 1897. By 1920, nearly all adult Eskimos in Barrow were Christians.

James Wollaston and Anna Kirk

Reverend Kirk was one of the three Presbyterian clergypersons who met at Eagle on July 26, 1899 to formally constitute the Presbytery of Yukon. He and his wife were assigned to Eagle and began services in saloon. The Eagle church was transferred to the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1905. The story of the Kirks' work at Eagle is told in their book Pioneer Life in the Yukon Valley Alaska: Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church USA, 1935, Ben Franklin Printers, Inc., Buffalo, NY, a copy of which is contained in the Yukon Presbytery Collection, UAF archives.


S. Hall Young, DD





Reverend Young was one of the three Presbyterian clergypersons to meet at Eagle July 26, 1899 to form the Presbytery of Yukon. He had previously served at Wrangell, 1878-1888. More than any other Presbyterian missionary, he was the man who influenced the decision to teach the Native people in the English language. Young began the first ministry to white Alaskans in 1897, following gold miners throughout Interior Alaska. Starting at Dawson, he worked at Rampart, Nome, Fairbanks and Cordova. He established the first church at Fairbanks in 1904 and the church at Cordova in 1908. He served the presbytery with distinction until his retirement in 1925.

M. Egbert Koonce, Ph.D.

Reverend Koonce was one of the three Presbyterian clergypersons who met at Eagle on July 26, 1899 to form the Presbytery of Yukon. Following the meeting, Koonce went to Rampart to begin work.



Dr. J. L. McBride

Minister at Cordova Presbyterian Church who in May of 1915 heard of the new railroad camp being built at the mouth of Ship Creek. He convinced the Board of National Missions in New York to finance the purchase of two lots in the new community and founded the First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage on November 15, 1915. The church was formally organized January 14, 1917.

Dr. Henry W. Griest

Medical-missionary sent to Cape Prince of Wales in 1920. He took with him medicines, surgical instruments, Bibles, his wife and small son. In 1921, Griest transferred to Barrow. The resulting parish was 1000 mile long along the Arctic Coast. Mrs. Griest began the tradition of the Mothers' Clubs in Barrow. In 1935, Dr. Griest prepared the body of American Humorist Will Rogers for shipping back to the United States after the crash which claimed the lives of both Rogers and his pilot Wiley Post. Griest retired in 1943 and died at his home in Indiana in 1955. His wife, Molly, who was a nurse, lived to the age of 103.

Dr. and Mrs. Griest and son David. 


Andrew Akootchook

Originally served as Inupiat interpreter for missionaries at Barrow beginning in 1908. He served as an elder at Kaktovik beginning in 1924 and was licensed to preach in 1934. Akootchook died in an accident at Barter Island shortly before his scheduled ordination in 1950.

Percy Ipalook

Born at Barrow April 2, 1906, Ipalook's religious training came through the Reverends Marsh, Spriggs, Spence and Newhall, but most particularly the missionary-nurse Ann Bannon. He also served as interpreter for Dr. Griest. Ipalook attended Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka and completed his theological training at Dubuque, Iowa. He served as a lay worker at Wales and Wainwright from 1934 to 1940. His ordination in 1941 made him the first full-blooded Inupiaq Eskimo to be ordained to the ministry in the Presbyterian Church. He served churches at Wales, Gambell and Wainwright and was the first Eskimo to be elected to the Territorial House of Representatives in 1949. Ipalook died December 15, 1990 at Kotzebue.

Dr. Roy Ahmaogak

Taken under care for the ministry at Barrow in 1924 along with Robert Ikkok, Andrew Akootchook, and Percy Ipalook. Licensed to preach, 1944; ordained to ministry, 1947; served church at Wainwright for 19 years; completed translation of New Testament into Inupiaq, 1968; awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Whitworth College. Ahmaogak also is remembered for broadcasting daily devotions via radio "to home sets as far as the village's edge." After 45 years of service to the church, Ahmaogak died at Barrow February 1, 1968.


John Youel

First served the church in Anchorage from 1925 to 1928, at which time he relocated to the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks - beginning what was to be the longest-term pastor in the history of that church, from 1928 to 1940, when he retired and moved back to Anchorage. As General Missionary for Alaska, Rev. Youel helped organize both the Gambell and Savoonga churches in 1940.

Ann Bannon

Served as a Presbyterian missionary-nurse at Barrow, Wainwright, Wales, Savoonga, and Gambell from 1920-1941. It is to her that we are indebted for the extensive albums including photographs of local residents, missionaries and distinguished visitors to the Arctic coast during this period.

The Rev. Bert J. and Mabel P. Bingle

Bert Bingle

A Native of Rising Sun, Ohio, Bert Bingle was the "great church builder" of Alaska - physically constructing six church buildings and a camp ground, as well as organizing the congregations themselves. His ministry along the Railbelt of Alaska - from Wasilla to Fairbanks -- was often called "the longest in the world", six feet wide and 225 miles long.

Bingle writes of himself to William Pritchard:

"I came into the Presbyterian ministry from a position as high school instructor in Twin Falls, Idaho. I had my training prior to teaching in seminary work. I served three years in the little mining ad farming community church of Bellevue, Idaho, after which I applied for labor in Alaska. May 1, 1928 found us on our way to the unknown north.

"We served seven years in the seacoast town of Cordova, Alaska. At the same time we had the status as Sunday school missionaries, covering the fields to the north, such as the copper mine and the two railroad villages of Chitina, and McCarthy. Once each year we made a trip to the Copper River Valley 100 mils or so above Chitina on the Richardson Highway, caring for the Indian villagers as well as white settlers.

"In 1935 we were transferred to the Matanuska Valley where we cared for the new settlers the government sent in plus organizing the work ad seeing the necessary buildings were constructed. We also served the coal miners and the gold miners on the rim of the valley, as well as those along the railroad some 80 miles north.

"In 1941 we were sent on general work for Sunday school Missions, where we labored with headquarters in Fairbanks area for 19 years. We covered railroad work, the new Alaska Highway work for a few hundred miles, plus a few trips to the arctic, both for the church and the U.S. Navy Engineers."

August 27, 1971: "It is with sorrow that we inform you of the death of the Rev. Bert J. Bingle. Bert was honorable retired by this Presbytery in 1965 after laboring in our bounds for 38 years. Bert's ministry in Yukon Presbytery had touched almost every existing field and many that have since been dissolved. Bert had returned to Alaska for a summer visit when he was stricken and taken to the Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Palmer. Funeral services will be held at the United Protestant Church in Palmer at 3 p.m., Saturday, June 6, 1971."



Norma Jordet Hoyt

Yukon Presbytery Historian Norma Hoyt died February 10, 1989, at the age of 87. Born Sept. 9, 1901 in Mayville, ND, and graduated from Mayville State Teachers College in North Dakota, she arrived in Alaska in 1930 to teach in Nome. She moved to Fairbanks in 1931 where she taught school during the winter for three years and spent summers working at Mount McKinley. She married Harry Hoyt in 1934 and moved to Anchorage. In 1936, Harry bought an automobile dealership at the corner of Fifth Avenue and D Street and renamed it Hoyt Motor C o. Norma worked there for ten years. The couple sold the business in 1962.

She joined First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage in 1937. Norma was an avid collector and traveler. In her travels, Mrs. Hoyt visited St. Lawrence Island, Kotzebue, Kiana and Point Hope. She also visited Churchill, Manitoba; the British Isles; Thailand; Norway and Russia and Antarctica. One year she traveled around the world.

In 1969, she ad Alice Green traveled 13,700 miles through 32 states of the Lower 48 on a quest for Alaska literature. She donated more than 2,000 books on Alaskana to Loussac Library headquarters.

She was a former advisor for the state of Alaska for the National Trust for Historical preservation and was one of the original members of the Fine Arts Commission. She was a charter member of the Anchorage Museum Board and had served on the board of trustees for Sheldon Jackson College.

A member of First Presbyterian Church, Anchorage, since 1937, her funeral was conducted there with burial in the Pioneer Section of Anchorage Memorial Park. Memorials were requested to be sent to either Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka or to First Presbyterian Church, Anchorage.

Fred Klerekoper

Presbyterian minister serving the Arctic coast almost every year between 1936 and 1945, Klerekoper made the trip from Barrow to the Canadian border. He kept a diary which is now an important record of the families who lived along the Beaufort Sea coast. Fred Klerekoper physically helped build the monument to Will Rogers and Wiley Post at Walipi Lagoon, twelve miles southwest of Barrow on the Arctic Ocean. Klerekoper also served as captain in the Alaska Territorial Guard, out of Barrow, 1943. Klerekoper was born May 29, 1909 at Benton Harbor, Michigan, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He received his BA from Alma Presbyterian College in 1931 and his Bachelor of Theology degree from Princeton in 1934. He married Anna Miller Bruen, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, in 1934. The moved to Skagway in 1935 and to Barrow in 1936. Klerekoper worked with Roy Ahmaogak on a phonetic alphabet and dictionary of the Inupiat language. In 1972, Alma College gave Rev. Klerekoper a doctorate of letters for this linguist work. The Klerekoper's oldest daughter Martha was born January 6, 1940. In 1946, triplet daughters were born, Emily, Anna and Caroline. The family eventually moved to Iran for five years of missionary work and learning the Turkish language. They later returned to the southwest of the United States. Dr. Klerekoper and his wife Nan were living in Austin, Texas, in 1977.

Emma M. Stauffer, RN

No record has been found of when Miss Stauffer originally arrived in Wales, but in 1938 she put in for a need of another stove in the Thornton Memorial Church. On March 6, 1942, she was granted permission to moderate the session there in the absence of a minister. In 1944 Presbytery reported she had been ill. Percy Ipalook served the church for several years, but Emma returned to Wales in 1951 following Percy's election to the Legislature. Emma retired in 1953 for medical reasons; no replacement could be found; and the church was traded for Yakutat.

Dwight Tevuk

Clerk of session, Thornton Memorial Church, Wales, from at least 1940-1953.



R. Rolland Armstrong

Installed as pastor of First Presbyterian church, Anchorage, January 22, 1943; appointed to the office of Field Repre-sentative for the Board of National Missions for Alaska, with offices in Juneau, on December 8, 1950. Armstrong was one of the seven - out of 55 delegates - elected at-large from the whole territory to write the Constitution for the State of Alaska. (See materials earlier in this work.)

Harding Katairoak

Arrived in Fairbanks from Barrow, via Wiseman, in 1943 to work on the railroad. Active member of First Presbyterian and assisted Bert Bingle in highway ministry.

Wilbur Itchaok

Leader of Eskimo community in Fairbanks who served as translator for the Eskimo congregation at First Presbyterian Church, 1944-1947.

Alice Green

Sent as Presbyterian Commissioned Church Worker to Savoonga in 1945; ordained September 15, 1972 to be Savoonga's pastor; retired in 1982; re-located to Anchorage; served as Stated Clerk of the Yukon Presbytery; retired again December 31, 1991; and remains an active member of Presbytery.

J. Earl Jackman

Was enrolled as a corresponding member of the Presbytery of Yukon for the first time in 1944. Jackson was the new administrator for the Board of National Missions in Alaska and 1944 would mark the beginning of an era of church work in Alaska remembered as fondly as that of Sheldon Jackson 60 years earlier. Jackman served until 1959.

Jessie DeVries

Jessie DeVries and her teacher husband arrived in Palmer, Alaska,from Montana in 1945 at the close of the war -- just ten years after the establishment of the United Protestant Church of Palmer. "My husband had grown up Dutch Reformed and I grew up Generic Christian, so the name of the church appealed to us," Jessie said in a 1995 interview. "I found that I liked the structure of the Presbyterian church," she explains, "because of the opportunity for the elders and others to have a voice in the church. I was able to have a voice even though I was a woman."

And a voice she does have. Jessie DeVries, for more than fifty years, has been an active laywoman on the congregational, presbytery, and synod levels of the Presbyterian government. She credits her training to moving through the offices of the Presbyterian women's association, of which she remains an active member and historian. She also served as chair of the Mission and Evangelism Committee for many years at the Presbytery level, and as such, served on the synod committee as well.

Back in the early days, Jessie was a nurse at the Palmer hospital and helped raise 'Pennies for Palmer. The original hospital, built by the government, burned down in the late 40s. The patients and equipment were saved and moved to the school, but when school re-opened that fall, the hospital had to disband. "For a time, babies were born at home and others went to Anchorage for medical treatment," Jessie says. "The Presbyterian Church became interested in helping us and the women's association nationwide began collecting 'Pennies for Palmer'", she recalls. The resulting Community Presbyterian Hospital at Palmer was eventually built with help from the community itself, the Presbyterian Church, and a government grant.

Elmer E. Parker

Serving Gambell Presbyterian Church as pastor in 1947. Group of Siberian Eskimos pay visit to church services.

Paul Silook

Served as elder delegate to 1948 General Assembly from Gambell. His report of his travels to Seattle for the meeting and his road trip back up the Alcan Highway is attached.

Ken and Betty Smith

Ken Smith

 Ken Smith arrived in Sitka, Alaska in 1949 to serve as teacher, work supervisor, and athletic director at Sheldon Jackson Junior College. He left in 1952 to attend San Francisco Theological Seminary at San Anselmo, CA. He was graduated in 1955 and spent the summer of that year preaching at the Sitka Presbyterian Church and again serving at Sheldon Jackson.

Ordained in the Alaska Presbytery, Rev. Smith was called as pastor at Chapel by the Lake, Auke Bay (Juneau), AK, in 1955 where he served for 22 years. During his tenure, the Auke Bay church attained self-supporting status in 1966. While in the Juneau area, Smith was involved in the building of seven congregational volunteer work projects, served on the Sheldon Jackson Board of Trustees, and on the 1202 Post Secondary Education Commission for the State of Alaska. He, of course, also served on a number of synod and presbytery committees during those years.

Betty Smith, mother of six children, served right beside her husband during these years. While in Auke Bay, Betty invited numerous ministers, their families, and laypersons from the villages to stay at the Smith home while obtaining medical and/or dental work in Juneau. Seven or eight children were born while the parents were staying with Ken and Betty Smith. Rev. Smith also had an agreement with the security office at the Juneau airport -- when persons showed up with no money for a hotel room, they were to call the Smith household. For a time there were between ten and fifteen such visitors at month.

From 1977 to 1989, Smith served as the pastor of the Waimea Hawaiian, Christian and Foreign Churches. Again, he was involved with congregational building projects, com-munity,and denominational organizations.

Smith returned to Alaska in 1989 to assume the pastorate of the Eagle River Presbyterian Church where he served until his retirement in 1997. Under his direction, the church became self-supporting in 1993, purchased a mall to house the congregation, and began an outreach ministry to women incarcerated in the nearby prison. 

Smith served as interim pastor at Waimea United Church of Christ during the 1997-1998 year, and is currently living at Surprize, AZ.


William Wartes

Bill Wartes and his wife, the former Bonnie Meekof, arrived in Barrow on July 2, 1951. It would be the Rev. Wartes first pastorate since graduation from San Francisco Theological Seminary and ordination. As a student minister, he had served two years at the Presbyterian church in Marin City, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, and two years as chaplain at San Quentin. Both Bill and Bonnie had grown up in the Seattle First Presbyterian Church.

The Wartes served the Barrow church from 1951 through 1958 - leaving just before Statehood. Among the joys and spiritual highlights of that ministry were the love of the people themselves, the honor of publishing the first Eskimo language hymnal, starting the work at Anaktuvuk Pass, and the many baptisms and marriages, Bill said in a 1995 interview.

Following their time in the Arctic, Wartes served churches in Sequim, WA, Seattle, WA, seven yoked churches in northern Michigan, and a yoked parish with one church in Eastern Washington and another in Western Idaho.

"I'm a carpenter's helper," Bill said in 1995, "I've had a wonderful time with the Lord."

Bill Wartes died in August 1998. He is survived by his wife of Spokane, WA, and five children: Merrily Lowery of Spokane, Mark Wartes of Fairbanks, AK, Teena Helmericks, Colville, AK, Clayton Wartes of Shreveport, LA, and Eldon Wartes of Fairbanks, AK; plus 18 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Mable Rasmussen

Mable Rasmussen followed her husband to Fairbanks in October 1951 from Superior, WI. Mable was born in Bay City, MI, moved to Minneapolis, and on to Wisconsin. After their children had grown, Mable's husband decided to try Alaska - arriving in July of 1951 to work on the air force base.

Mable, always active in church work, realized that she wanted to work with native people even before she arrived in the state. Her husband had been Lutheran, she was a Baptist. Together they began attending First Presbyterian Church in Fairbanks. "Rev. Vic Alfsen's slight Norwegian accent took my husband's fancy," Mable said in a 1995 interview. She herself was delighted with the number of Eskimo families who attended the church and the overall welcoming nature of the place.

Mable will be remembered for starting two important ministries in the Fairbanks community. It was through her efforts that Hospitality House was funded and established in 1957 - a residence for young native women new to city life. Mable managed the program until her resignation in 1972. Several years were spent with her ailing husband who died in 1978.

At loose ends, Mable was attending a prayer meeting in 1981 at which a new woman asked her to visit her brother who was in prison. Reluctantly, Mabel entered the men's prison for the first time in 1981 and didn't retire from the resulting chaplaincy program she developed there until she turned 90 in 1998.

Along the way, Mable Rasmussen became the Rev. Ms. Rasmussen - receiving a special ordination in the Yukon Presbytery in 1983.

Claude Klaver

Born at Kamra, Iowa, February 23, 1925, Claude grew up in First Presbyterian Church there. This church was a part of the Synod of the West, a German language synod spread across a number of midwestern states. After service in the military at the close of World War II, he completed college and seminary at the University of Dubuque.

Claude was appointed Missionary Pastor of the church at Yakutat by the Board of National Missions and arrived on the field with his wife and first child December 16, 1954, their wedding anniversary. Prior to his arrival, the Board of National Missions and the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church had exchanged fields of ministry between Wales and Yakutat. Claude was the first Presbyterian to serve as pastor there and led in the formal organization of the Yakutat Presbyterian Church.

In 1958, Rev. Klaver was called as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Wasilla, and served through 1965. In addition to the ministry at the church, his responsibilities included serving as mobile missionary pastor to homesteaders and others living along the Glenn Highway to Glennallen and up the railroad to Curry, Alaska. During this time, he built and served a small chapel group at Willow. This property was later sold to the United Methodist Alaska Missionary Conference and is now a United Methodist Church.

From Wasilla, Rev. Klaver moved to the midwest for a time and returned to Alaska in 1977 to accept a call from the Presbytery to become organizing pastor for a union United Methodist and Presbyterian new church development at North Pole. After leaving the pastorate there in 1982, he became manager of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, chaplain at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Denali Center and the Pioneers' Home.

Though he retired in 1990, Claude Klaver continues to serve as chaplain at the Denali Center and Pioneers' Home on a part time basis.

John R. Chambers

Pastor of the church at Barrow, flying parson who helped scour the countryside for the missing hunter in the mission's light plane, the Arctic Messengers III. Besides serving the church at Barrow -- it has about 500 members of the 1400 Eskimos and 60 non-Eskimos living in the village -- he flies to Barter Island and Anaktuvuk Pass to hold services. His schedule at these outposts is uncertain, however, owing to coastal fogs, which make flying unpredictable. Mr. Chambers has flown since 1958. The new plane seats six passengers and has a range of over 900 miles (1962 article) Rev. Chambers is also the author of Arctic Bush Mission, published 1970 by Superior Publishing Co., 708 Sixth Avenue, North, Seattle, WA.

Charles Slwooko

May 6, 1959: Elder Charles Slwooko of Yukon Presbytery each year sends a unique thank offering to the Board of National Missions: one or more white fox skins. Mr. Slwooko is a hunter and trapper from Gambell, one of two small Eskimo village on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Only a 35-mile band of the Bering Sea separates his home from the Russian mainland.

Elder Slwooko's first gift of fur reached national missions headquarters in New York more than ten years ago. It was wrapped in a sugar sack and accompanied by a note which read something as follows:

"I had much owe at store. I have big family to feed and no money. I not know where to turn. Very few fox caught. I pray the Lord to help me get food for my family. I went out and set my traps. In three weeks I caught 90 foxes. I pay my owe at the store. I buy food for my family. Praise the Lord. He can do anything.

"In thanks I send fox fur to the Board of National Missions."

His thank-gift this year -- two fox furs -- had a shorter note attached: "This is gift to the Lord so you ca use it for help."

Brian Cleworth

Brian Cleworth was installed as pastor of United Protestant Church July 13, 1952. As pastor he also automatically became a member of the Valley Hospital Board. Cleworth came to the position with a wife and two sons.

The local assignment is the first one for the young minister since he was ordained by the Minneapolis Presbytery. He was graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, and served with the Air Force during World War II. He was a gunner on a plane shot down over Austria.

In March of 1973, Cleworth -- now a member of Kuhns, Cleworth Associates, public accountants, Fairbanks, writes to Rev. David Crockett that his divorce is final and that he is not in the employ of the church. "I have requested to demit or, if Overture M passes, to be released from my ordination." He had pondered the consequences of a future investigative commissions findings: If cleared of any charge, then he could demit or set aside his ordination-- and still be active as a layperson in the Presbyterian church. If found "guilty" all he could do is renounce the church and immediately by dropped from the rolls.

In October 1973, he formally requested to be demitted from the ministry. Apparently, the Ministerial Relations Committee acquiesced with his request -- expressing hope that Overture M would pass and the required investigative committees would be nullified.

Henry Paul Guinotte

Henry Guinotte, born June 16, 1930, in Omaha, Nebraska, first came to Alaska in July 1965. He brought a work team of twelve high school youth from Nebraska and Iowa to do maintenance work on Hospitality House in Fairbanks. The first of ten youth teams to Alaska grew from this visit. Each of the ten teams visited the church at Anuktuvuk Pass, as well.

Guinotte was called to the United Protestant Church, Palmer, in 1972. UPC was the fourth pastorate of his career. His interest in youth work continued after arriving in Palmer. He encouraged youth to travel with the Southeast Alaska Anna Jackman boat ministry during this time, and also took youth groups to New York, Washington, and Philadelphia to see Presbyterian mission work and to learn about national government. Guinotte took a youth group to do ministry in the streets of a depressed section of Glasgow, Scotland, in conjunction with the Church of Scotland.

While at Palmer, Guinotte served as chair of the Presbytery's Mission Evangelism Committee, and as such, served on the Synod Mission Evangelism Committee. He also served six years as president of the Presbytery Board of Trustees. 

Also during his ministry at Palmer, one of the Sunday School classes started a Food Bank in the church. For several years it was the only food bank in the valley, and in 1990 it was serving 125 families a month. After Guinotte retired, the food bank was combined with that of St. Michael's Catholic Church and now serves 500 families a month. Guinotte continues as a volunteer there. 

In 1991, Dubuque Theological Seminary presented Guinotte, a graduate of Dubuque, with a Herbert Manning Service award: "Alumnus of Distinction for Distinguished Service to the Whole Church and the World."

Shortly after his retirement from the United Protestant Church pastorate, a seat opened on the Palmer City Council. Guinotte was appointed to the short term and twice was elected to three-year-terms on the council. One year into his second term in 1995, he was elected mayor of the city. He was re-elected in 1998 - with only 41 votes casted in opposition.

The retired pastor is a life member of the Palmer Chamber of Commerce, a past president and Paul Harris Fellow in the local Rotary club, and a director in the Alaska Municipal League.

William Pritchard

 Richard Madden

Neil Munro


Mable Rasmussen

Mable Rasmussen followed her husband to Fairbanks in October 1951 from Superior, WI. Mabel was born in Bay City, MI, moved to Minneapolis, and on to Wisconsin. After their children had grown, Mable's husband decided to try Alaska - arriving in July of 1951 to work on the air force base.

Mable, always active in church work, realized that she wanted to work with native people even before she arrived in the state. Her husband had been Lutheran, she was a Baptist. Together they began attending First Presbyterian Church in Fairbanks. "Rev. Vic Alfsen's slight Norwegian accent took my husband's fancy," Mable said in a 1995 interview. She herself was delighted with the number of Eskimo families who attended the church and the overall welcoming nature of the place.

Mable will be remembered for starting two important ministries in the Fairbanks community. It was through her efforts that Hospitality House was funded and established in 1957 - a residence for young native women new to city life. Mabelemanaged the program until her resignation in 1972. Several years were spent with her ailing husband who died in 1978.

At loose ends, Mable was attending a prayer meeting in 1981 at which a new woman asked her to visit her brother who was in prison. Reluctantly, Mable entered the men's prison for the first time in 1981 and didn't retire from the resulting chaplaincy program she developed there until she turned 90 in 1998.

Along the way, Mable Rasmussen became the Rev. Ms. Rasmussen - receiving a special ordination in the Yukon Presbytery in 1983.

Samuel Simmonds

Born January 25, 1922, Simmonds was commissioned a lay preacher in 1953; ordained in 1961; served as assistant, associate, and pastor of 600-member church at Barrow 1961-1972; and served Olgonik Church at Wainwright, beginning in 1972. Simmonds grew up in the church at Barrow, became a member in his early teens, church school teacher, and elder. Often he was interpreter for the non-English-speaking minister. He was married at 22 and started working for the Meade River Coal Company, hauling coal from Meade River to Barrow. He worked for the mine three years driving coal back and forth and five years as a bookkeeper and manager for the company.

In 1951, Samuel lost his first wife, Hester, in an airplane accident. In his grief, he turned to the Lord for guidance. In 1954, he began serving as a lay preacher at the Barrow church and also travelled to Anaktuvuk Pass and other arctic communities. He was ordained in 1961 and was called as pastor for the Barrow church beginning a 27-year ministry as a Presbyterian minister on the North Slope.

In 1972, the people of Wainwright were looking for a minister after Dr. Roy Ahmaogak died. They needed a minister who could speak English and Inupiaq. Simmonds was the only Presbyterian minister who qualified.

In April of 1989, the North Slope Borough convinced Simmonds, then 67, to embark on yet another career, this time as a community outreach worker with the Substance Abuse Treatment Services.

Simmonds died at Barrow May 26, 1996.


Nick Brewer, Jr.

Born and raised I Savannah, GA, Rev. Nick Brewer found his way to the Presbyterian Church USA, by way of the Southern Presbyterian Church as well as the Southern Baptist Church. He received his master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt University, was ordained and served as a Navy chaplain for several years prior to his discharge in 1960.

He served as executive director and "village chaplain" for the National Council of Churches in Oakhurst, IL, before accepting a call to First Presbyterian Church of Wasilla, arriving in January 1966.

Brewer chaired the 75th Anniversary Committee for the Presbytery of Yukon.

Sigurd Kristiansen, Jr.

The Rev. Sigurd Kristiansen, Jr., first arrived on St. Lawrence Island in 1969 as a Presbytery evangelist serving the two main settlements on the island, Savoonga and Gambell, each with a population of about 350 Eskimos. A few isolated families also lived at the Air Force Radar Station at Northeast Cape, where some employment was available but no church. Kristiansen visited these families and also trained lay leaders from the two main communities. The lay leaders translated Kristiansen's sermons into the Siberian Yup'ik language and conducted worship services when the pastor was elsewhere. Kristiansen served as Presbytery evangelist to Savoonga and Gambell, 1969-1975; as pastor at Savoonga, 1982-1986; and as tentmaking pastor at Nome, 1986-?

Hal N. Banks

 Organizing pastor for Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Anchorage.

Mary Jane Hargrave Landstrom

Christian Education worker, charter member of Immanuel Presbyterian, and current [1998] Stated Clerk, Presbytery of the Yukon.

Gordon Corbett

Associate Synod Executive for Alaska and Yukon Presbyteries, 1971-1984. (See earlier interview.)

Mary Tener Sanders

Served as Christian Education Worker for Arctic Slope villages 1967 to 1973; former Anchorage mathematics teacher.



John Apangalook

Gambell elder who, in the 1970s, protested nuclear testing proposed on Amchatka Island in the Aleutian Islands, stating the fear of a tidal wave which could effect St. Lawrence Island. Apangalook came to Presbytery, made an articulate plea for help in opposing the testing, and Presbytery went on record in opposition to such testing.

H. Gene Straatmeyer

A 1959 graduate of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Straatmeyer served churches in the midwest before being called to First Presbyterian Church, Fairbanks in 1971. While in Fairbanks, Straatmeyer helped establish two new congregations: First Korean Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks and New Hope Presbyterian/Methodist Church at North Pole. Straatmeyer was active with the Fairbanks Council of Churches and the Alaska Christian Conference, where he chaired both groups' Social Concerns Task Force during the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The Task Force led to securing the Pipeline Chaplaincy program and to serving as the first chairperson of the North Star Borough's Pipeline Impact Center.

Straatmeyer was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Iliff School of Theology based on his work with the Inupiaq and Anglo church embers in Fairbanks. He was called to the faculty of the University of Dubuque in 1978 to lead the Native American Theological Consortium, designed to train Native American laity for ministry and recruit Native American candidates for M.Div. training. This position kept him in regular contact with Alaska and Yukon presbyteries. After serving at Dubuque for eight years and five years as vice president of Charles Cook Theological School in Tempe, Arizona, Straatmeyer was called to First Presbyterian Church in Wasilla in 1991.

In Wasilla, Straatmeyer has been active in ecumenical work serving two terms as president of both the Alaska Christian and Valley Christian Conference. Serving in these positions at the time of the 1996 Miller's Reach fire, Straatmeyer oversaw the VCC's involvement in the recovery process.

Straatmeyer is currently involved in the new church development at Big Lake - the Church of the Reformation, a mission of the Presbyterian Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Straatmeyer will retire in May 1999, having served 40 years as a PCUSA minister.

Clarence M. Irrigoo

Re-located from Gambell to Nome in 1965, and was prime mover in reestablishment of Presbyterian Church in Nome, 1973.

Winfred Matuklook

Lay preacher assigned to Aywaan Bering Sea Larger Parish, commissioned by Yukon Presbytery on January 14, 1976; formerly had worked with Rev. Kristiansen at Gambell; attended Sheldon Jackson College.

James Nageak

First fully seminary trained Inupiaq minister; ordained at Barrow, November 14, 1976; served congregations at Barrow, Anaktuvuk Pass, Kaktovik, and Nuiqsut; currently professor of Inupiaq Studies, Center for the Advancement of Inupiat Education, Barrow, and Moderator of the Presbytery of the Yukon, 1997-98



Dianne O'Connell

Ordained November 15, 1987; Dianne has served as tent-making associate pastor for Immanuel Presbyterian Church; as campus minister with University Community Ministries, Anchorage; as chaplain at Alaska Psychiatric Institute and Providence Alaska Medical Center, and is currently Interfaith Caregivers coordinator at Providence. Reverend O'Connell is also historian for the Presbytery and author of this material.

Mary Ann Warden

First ordained Inupiat woman minister. Born in Kaktovik, ordained July 29, 1990, called to Northern Light United Church, Juneau, as associate pastor, 1990 (Alaska Presbytery)

She led a Native outreach program from 1990 to 1998, financed by the Alaska Methodist Missionary Conference and Presbytery of Alaska.

Mary Ann lived in Fairbanks for two decades working with inmates at the Fairbanks Correctional Center and also serving as a lay preacher, assisting weekly services in the Inupiat language. She and her daughter eventually relocated to Iowa where Mary Ann earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Dubuque. She also received her master of divinity degree at the school before returning home to Alaska.

The Reverend Warden accepted a position as associate pastor, Utkeagvik Presbyterian Church in Barrow, in the spring of 1998.

Nelson Ahvakana

Served as commissioned lay preacher in the Ahmaogak Memorial Parish.



Willa Roghair

Born June 4, 1943, died May 12, 1994: Co-pastor with husband Jim at Utkeagvik Presbyterian, Barrow. Instrumental in establishing Chukotka Christian Native Ministry to Russia.

Timothy Gologergen

Serving as commissioned lay preacher-missionary from Nome to Chukotka, Russia, 1994-present. The Chukotka Christian Native Ministry is an ecumenical effort.

Isaac Akootchook

Serving as commissioned lay preacher, Kaktovik Presbyterian Church, Barter Island, 1997.

David Dobler

Executive Presbyter, Yukon Presbytery

Jason and Heidi Gamble, co-pastors, Savoonga

Jason Ewart Gamble was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. He was graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with a degree in languages and spent years abroad in both Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Aix-En-Provence, France. Heidi Worthen Gamble was born in Chicago, IL, and grew up in small towns in Indiana, Kansas, and Colorado. She attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, during orientation week at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA. They were engaged by Christmas and married in June. Jason worked with youth at an inner city San Francisco church and spent a year as an intern at Davis Community Church in Davis, CA. Heidi was a youth director in Puyallup, WA her last year of college, and spent her internship year at a homeless ministry in Sacramento.

While in seminary they lived in Berkeley, CA. How did they get from Berkeley to Savoonga? "We wanted something different," they say. Both have a love of languages and other cultures and enjoy travelling. "When we came to Savoonga to candidate, we felt welcomed and loved. How can you turn down that," they ask.

Footprints into the Twentieth Century

Presbytery of Yukon

Ministers Residing Within Alaska

Fall, 1998

Minister -- Ordination -- Presbytery Service -- Assignment

Phillip Gilbert -- 06/13/64 -- 03/03/74 -- Retired

Alice Green -- 09/15/72 -- 09/15/72 -- Retired

Timothy Carrick -- 08/21/83 -- 10/12/91 -- United Protestant, Palmer

Claude Klaver -- 06/01/53 -- 10/12/77 -- Retired

Nelson Ahvakana -- 04/02/86 -- 04/02/86 -- Retired

Roger Kemp -- 10/10/70 -- 07/01/90 -- Olgonik, Wainwright

Mable Rasmussen -- 03/15/87 -- 03/15/87 -- Prison chaplain, Fairbanks

Henry Guinotte -- 06/ /56 -- 08/13/72 -- Retired

Jay OlsonKetchum -- 05/04/87 --11/03/91 -- Immanuel, Anchorage

Dianne O'Connell -- 11/12/87 -- 11/12/87 -- Hospital chaplain, Anchorage

George Gilchrist -- 06/19/71 -- 03/07/83 -- Trinity, Anchorage

Judy McQuiston -- 06/12/88 -- 03/01/95 -- Chapel in Mts, Anuktuvuk Pass

T. Murray Richmond -- 01/22/89 -- 02/25/96 -- University Community, Fairbanks

Janice Stamper -- 09/24/89 -- 10/01/89 -- Jewel Lake Parish, Anchorage

Curt Karns -- 09/24/89 -- 08/08/93 -- New Hope, North Pole

Soon Ae Carpenter -- 12/01/84 -- 12/01/84 -- Korean Congregation, Delta

Joshua Kim -- 09/26/92 -- 11/01/92 -- First Korean, Anchorage

Anna Williamson -- 12/07/94 -- 12/07/94 -- Kuukpik, Nuiqsut

Richard Carpenter -- 06/20/63 -- 06/12/76-- Retired

James Nageak -- 11/14/70 -- 11/14/70 -- UAF, educator

David L. Bleivik -- 02/02/75 -- 10/20/91 -- First, Anchorage

Leisa Carrick -- 08/21/83 -- 10/12/91 -- United Protestant, Palmer

Gene Straatmeyer -- 06/10/59 -- 10/20/91 -- First, Wasilla

Nicholas Brewer -- 06/ /56 -- Retired

Ralph Weeks -- 06/05/53 -- Retired


Andrew Ekblad -- 07/21/91 -- 02/25/97 -- First, Fairbanks

Heidi Gamble -- 07/20/97 -- 07/20/97 -- Savoonga

Jason Gamble -- 07/20/97 -- 07/20/97 -- Savoonga

Mary Ann Warden -- 03/15/98 -- Utkeagvik, Barrow

R. Michael Stuart -- 06/29/86 -- 06/01/98 -- Utkeagvik, Barrow

Youl Rhee -- 07/30/78 -- 03/02/98 -- Korean, Fairbanks

R. Dean Knapp -- 04/27/79 -- 08/01/98 -- Eagle River

Piper Bush Cartland -- 07/26/98 -- 08/01/98 -- First, Anchorage

David Dobler -- 06/16/80 -- 03/12/85 -- Executive presbyter

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