Leaving a Legacy
He wasn’t a professional historian or even an author, but George Harper’s pioneer ing efforts to chronicle the role of blacks in the history of Alaska spoke volumes about the man and his goal to provide a record for future generations. Harper, founder of the Blacks in Alaska History Project, died Jan. 21 in Anchorage. He was 73.
A computer programmer for the federal Bureau of Land Management, Harper quit his job in 1992 and spent the majority of his retirement years and much of his own money-working on his groundbreaking history project, which sought to document the role of blacks in the development of Alaska from its earliest days as an American territory.
With the help of funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other agencies, Harper traveled throughout Alaska collecting hundreds of photographs, letters and other items depicting the contributions of blacks. He detailed the efforts of the 3,700 black soldiers from the Deep South who helped build the Alaska Highway in 1942.
“White regiments had historians, but black regiments didn’t have any,” Harper told an Anchorage Daily News reporter on the 50th anniversary of the highway’s construction. Harper, who came to Alaska in 1981, was always willing to discuss his findings, such as the story of Tom Bevers, Anchorage’s first fire chief, who was a black man passing for white.
Harper functioned as something of a curator, setting up displays in libraries, schools and in government buildings. According to the Daily News, Harper’s collections will most likely be housed in the archives and manuscripts section of the University of Alaska Anchorage library.
“He was a collector of information and he was pretty nondiscriminating in the information he collected, but he was tenacious,” UAA history professor Stephen Haycox told the Daily News, adding that future black historians in Alaska will use Harper’s work to build upon. “They will be eternally grateful to George for what he did, and so should other minorities.”
Harold “Andy” Andersen, 78, died Dec. 28 in Port Angeles, Wash. A Washington native, he came to Alaska in the early 1950s and was the owner of Andy’s Flying Service in Kenai. He worked as a hunting and fishing guide and provided support services to homesteaders as well as the oil industry.
Mary Cesar, 86, a lifelong Alaskan, died Jan. 12 in Juneau. Raised in Haines, she moved to Juneau at age 16. She and her husband, Sam, ran the Dew Drop Inn restaurant on South Franklin Street. She later earned her general equivalency diploma and went to work for the state, retiring in 1975. She enjoyed swimming.
Alice Doyle, 75, died Dec. 28 in Homer. She came to Alaska in 1931, living in Nome before moving to Anchorage. She worked as a bookkeeper at various companies and managed Hobo’s Yukon Inn before joining her son in business. She was known for her dry wit and generosity.
Richard Hajny, 82, died Feb. 8 in Seattle. He came to Alaska in 1939 and served in the Aleutians during World War II. He moved to St. Paul Island in 1964 to work for the federal Department of Commerce. After retirement, he served as a tour guide on the island and was well known for his ivory craftsmanship.
Margaret Larson, 94, died Dec. 29 in Palmer. She came to Alaska in 1935 to join her brother John and lived in a tent in Anchorage for a short time. She was a cook in various Anchorage restaurants and owned The Brass Rail during the 1940s.
Gilbert Lincoln, 72, a lifelong Alaskan, died Nov. 23 in Anaktuvuk Pass. Born in Noatak, he lived in Barrow before settling in Anaktuvuk Pass, where he retired as the North Slope Borough fire chief for that area. He was known as an artisan and craftsman.
Leonard Lowell, 83, died Jan. 31 in Juneau. Born and raised in Juneau, he graduated from the University of Washington and then returned to his hometown. An engineer, he worked for the state and federal governments and later became known for his electrical engineering expertise in marine facilities construction.
James Magoffin Sr., 86, died Dec. 31 in Fairbanks. A Minnesota native, he came to Alaska with his new bride, Dorothy, in 1946. He soon turned to a career in aviation and founded Interior Airways, which eventually became a worldwide freight airline. He enjoyed the outdoors and flying his blue Widgeon.
Harold Fainter Sr., 81, died Jan. 16 in Mesa, Ariz. He moved to Seward with his family in the 1920s and later graduated from high school there. He was elected mayor of Seward in 1953 before moving to Anchorage, where he was named port director in 1967. He later worked for Lynden Transport Inc.
Sam Paul, 87, a lifelong Alaskan, died Feb. 23 in Juneau. Born in Douglas, he moved to Juneau in 1926 and graduated from Juneau High School. He worked in the family store, Gastineau Grocery, for many years and ran a wholesale grocery business.
Mark Ringst ad, 82, a lifelong Alaskan, died Jan. 9 in Fairbanks. Born in Hope, he moved to Fairbanks as a young child. A graduate of the University of Alaska, he ran the familyowned franchise of the Pepsi-Cola company and later put his mining degree to work at Usibelli Coal Mine.
Anne White, 87, a lifelong Alaskan, died Feb. 18 in Kodiak. Born in Karluk, she moved to Kodiak in 1941. She worked as director of food services for the Kodiak Borough School District for 20 years, developing school lunch programs throughout the area.
Notices are limited, because of space, to names of those who have achieved pioneer status through many years in the North, or who have made significant contributions to the state. Submissions for End of the Trail may be sent to email@example.com.
Copyright Morris Communications Jul 2004
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