In memory of Robert Messegee, Skagway mayor 1977-1982

Editor’s note: Below is a proclamation that was read at last week’s Skagway City Council meeting:

SKAGWAY MAYOR, 1977-1982

Robert Messegee, Skagway Mayor from 1977 through 1982 passed away on March 10th in Olympia, Washington. If any mayor could be proclaimed a founding father of modern Skagway, it would be Bob Messegee. If any two words could describe Bob Messegeeís approach to governance, as well as to life, they would be innovation and risk.
Risk - Bob Messegee, a science teacher at the Skagway School, ran a last minute write-in campaign for mayor against a strong candidate with considerably more history in the community. His campaign was successful. His time at the helm had come.
Risk - Following the enactment of the Clean Water Act in the late 1970s, Skagway dutifully built a new sewage treatment plant to conform to the requirements of that act. The plant failed to perform as anticipated, and was an incredible financial burden to the community. Mayor Messegee initiated a challenge to EPA on the blanket imposition of the Clean Water Act and its impact on small communities. At one time during this challenge the council members of the time were held individually financially responsible for the failure of Skagway to comply, and threatened with the potential for incarceration. In the end, Skagway and other small communities won exemptions from the requirements for secondary treatment, saving these communities thousands of dollars while still protecting water quality of the state.
Innovation - Mayor Messegee was the first mayor to begin to shift the community away from its dependence upon the railroad as the mainstay of the economy. He pursued other avenues of economic development, focusing upon Tourism. It was under his leadership that the first Convention and Visitors Bureau was established.
Risk - Mayor Messegee broke a tie vote to hire a barefoot “hippie” from Dyea to become City Manager. He was instrumental in hiring a petty bureaucrat from Juneau with no real visitor industry skills to be Skagway’s first full time director of tourism. History will reveal the outcome of these decisions.
Innovation - Mayor Messegee built the first passive solar home in Skagway. By harnessing the power of the sun, the Messegee home consumed less than 2 cords of firewood per year for supplemental heat.
Innovation and Risk - In spite of a lack of maritime skills, Bob Messegee built a 53’ steel hulled sailboat in his front yard. On a cold and dreary day most of the town turned out to witness this vessel’s slow journey down Main Street to the small boat harbor, where she was christened the “Nereus”. He departed Skagway with visions of world cruises of adventure and discovery with his family. The vision was never realized, but not for want of effort. His thirst for life on the high seas was tempered by his concern for the safety of his family. He lived out the rest his days safely ashore.
Now, therefore be it proclaimed that the passing of Robert Messegee ends the life of one of Skagway’s great visionaries, but his legacy remains. It can be recognized in every facet of what the community has become since those formative years of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The groundwork laid by Mayor Messegee was the foundation for the transformation of Skagway to what it is today. We are sorely grieved by his passing, but immeasurably grateful for his contributions to our community.
Signed this 16th day of March, 2006 by Tim Bourcy, Mayor

Editor’s postscript: It’s hard to improve on the above penned by Bob Ward with help from Skip Eliott and Mike Sica, but I have a couple more stories to add. Bob Messegee was mayor when I came to town to explore starting up The Skagway News in March 1978. He was very encouraging, despite this tongue-in-cheek quote that I still have pasted to my computer and look at every day: “I think if you run a newspaper here, you’re gonna need a pair of brass knuckles and a body guard.” He had a fierce independence and sense of humor that embodied all that’s right about Skagway. When he went before Congress to testify on the Skagway sewage dilemma, he held up a glass of clear liquid discharge from the local outfall line, and said something like this: “There’s more goat s—t in this water than what’s produced by the citizens of my town.” He made us proud to be from Skagway, and in a way, he never left.

Terry Clifford Mason,
Terry C. Mason 62, of Skagway, Alaska passed away on March 12, 2006 at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska. Terry was born on December 25, 1943 to Delia V. Mulkey and Thelston Carlyle Mason in Corry, Pennsylvania. He came to Skagway in September 1946 with his family. In 1962 he enlisted into the army. He met his first wife Sherilyn P. Mason in Skagway and they married in Leesville, Louisiana in 1968 where he was stationed. They had two daughters.
Terry served in the Vietnam War. Upon completion of his service in 1975 he returned to Skagway where he met and married Marlin S. Neal in 1977. They had four children.
Terry joined the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks on April 22, 1965. He was a member of the VFW in Juneau, Alaska. He continued his service through the Alaska National Guard and retired from all services in 1993.
Terry worked for the White Pass & Yukon Railroad off and on from 1975 until his last date of service on October 25, 2002 as a Carman and finally as a Car Inspector. He spent three years in Anchorage and Fairbanks working for the Alaska Railroad. Terry had a great love for Skagway. In his early years he loved to hike the many trails in the area. One of his favorite pastimes was to spend the weekends with his brother Tom Mason and sister-in-law Sheila Mason at their cabin at Portage Lake in British Columbia. Terry loved fishing with his children, nephews and brother. Terry always took joy in catching the biggest fish and finding the plumpest blueberries.
Terry lived in Juneau from 1994 to 1998 where he enjoyed many visits with his mother Dee and step father Wayne Mulkey. He worked at Rent a Wreck for very good family friends George and Ethel Damian. Terry spent his last several years with his companion Julie Burnham of Skagway. He left behind many wonderful memories for his family and friends to share. He had many friends all over Alaska and in Canada. For many years he enjoyed going to local cafes for coffee in the morning to visit and share stories with friends and family. He loved Christmases with his children when they were young. He was very proud to be a grandfather to his ten beautiful grandchildren.
Terry is survived by his loving mother Delia V. Mulkey of Juneau, his devoted brother and sister-in-law, Thomas C. and Sheila Mason of Skagway , his daughters Tina Mason of Duncan, British Columbia and Patricia Mason of Medicine Hat, Alberta, his son and daughter-in-law Matthew and April Mason of Fairbanks, his daughter and son-in-law Tonie and Joshua Wine of Fairbanks, , his son and daughter-in-law Kevin and Jessica Mason of Fairbanks, his daughter and son-in-law Andrea and Joshua Ballinger of Ft. Stewart, Georgia, and 10 grandchildren. He is also survived by his nephew Thelston T. Mason and his niece Jean Mason of Juneau, his great niece Courtney Mason of Fairbanks, and great nephew, Thomas Mason of Juneau. He was preceded in death by his father Thelston C. Mason, his step father Wayne R. Mulkey, his brother Charles A. Mason and nephew Troy A. Mason.
Funeral services will be held at St. Therese Catholic Church in Skagway on Friday, April 7, 2006 at 11:00 a.m. with Celebrant, Father Edmund Penisten. Graveside services will be immediately following. A celebration of his life will be held at the Elks after the services.
Memorial donations may be given to Skagway Elks 431 Scholarship in memory of Terry Mason. Terry has gone to be with our Father in Heaven and will be greatly missed by all who loved him. – Submitted by the family

Glenda Choate greets people at the White Pass booth for the Yukon Trade Show. Photo courtesy of WP&YR

Glenda Jacqueline Purcell Choate, 1932-2006

Glenda J. Choate, age 73, of Skagway, Alaska, and Bellingham, Wash., passed away on Monday, February 20, 2006, due to complications from ovarian cancer.She was born on October 28, 1932 in Georgetown, Texas.
One of Glenda’s dreams was to obtain a college education. While raising five children and being a career Army officer’s wife, she took college classes wherever her family was living. It was only after her youngest twins were born did she realize her goal and graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Southeastern Missouri University. Glenda taught school full-time, teaching both special education and high school. In Williamsburg, Virginia, Glenda received her Master Degree in Education from the College of William and Mary. Some of her fondest teaching memories were at Heidelberg American High School in Germany where she taught American History and Government.
Upon relocating to Bellingham, Glenda attended Western Washington University and received a Masters Degree in History, with her thesis on Anna Louise Strong, a woman who was an author and labor activist during many of the major revolutions of the 20th century. She then obtained her post-graduate certificate in Archives and Records Management at Western.
After her divorce, Glenda interned at the Federal Records Center in Seattle, which led to one of her lifeís greatest adventures: moving to and living in Alaska. In 1980 Glenda left Bellingham to work in Skagway, and loved it so much she decided to stay. She worked in various historical related positions for the State of Alaska, Sealaska Native Corporation, the City of Skagway and its Museum, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. Glenda traveled extensively in the Alaskan Bush and Yukon Territory, was the director of the Skagway City Museum, and she published several books and manuals on the history of the Alaska. In recognition of her contributions to the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, Glenda was adopted into the Kogwonton Wolf Clan of the Tlingit Tribe, a major honor.
One of her most important accomplishments was starting and running her own business, “Alaska Archives & Records Management,” which she continued until her passing. She owned the Principal Barber Shop in Skagway, one of the original buildings left from the “Days of 1898.” To interest her whimsical side of life, she started a clothing store in Skagway called “Miss Kitty’s” where she sold 1890s garments, including hats, to summer tourists. She was also a co-founder of Skagway’s Bigger Hammer Marching Band, a fixture at Fourth of July Parades. Glenda also joined the Peace Corps in Belize and traveled throughout Central America. Additionally, she was the Historic Preservation Officer for Clark County in Washington for a number of years.
Glenda was a life-long learner, an avid reader, and was deeply interested in civil rights and women’s issues. She was also a mentor and friend to many young women. One could always count on her listening to National Public Radio, CNN, and her daily read of the New York Times to follow what was happening on the national and world stages.
Glenda is survived by her five children: Mark (Sun) Choate of Juneau, Alaska, Julie Choat-Sparks of Tacoma, Steven (Wendy) Choat, of Bellingham, Scott Choate of Bellingham, and Susan (Tony) Doupe of Seattle, as well as eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her mother and her brother also survive her, as well as several nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at Westford Funeral Home on Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 11:00 a.m., with a reception at the Rhoeder Home to follow. The family will also be holding a service in Skagway, Alaska sometime in the late spring. Memorials may be made to the Glenda Choate Educational Fund, a trust fund Glenda created to provide matching scholarship funds and community cultural resources to the City of Skagway.
- Submitted by the family