Helen Kathleen ""Kay"" (McAlister) Prather (1923 - 2013)

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Helen Kathleen "Kay" Prather died peacefully the evening of August 27th at the Juneau Pioneer Home, surrounded by her family. She was 88 years old. Kay died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. Kay was born November 11, 1923 in Juneau to Helen "Nell" (Flynn) and James McAlister. She was the second of four sisters. Her older sister, Caroline, was born in Skagway. Her younger sisters, Patricia and Marilyn, were born in Juneau. Kay's grandparents, Patrick and Ellen Flynn, were Irish immigrants who moved to Skagway in 1900 with their children, seven-year old Nell and five year old John William. Patrick found work with the White Pass/Yukon Railway. Another son, Owen, was born in Skagway in 1904. In 1918, Nell married James McAlister, a Canadian who worked as a longshore- man in Skagway when they met. Jim was one of six sons born in Vancouver, B.C. to Peter and Caroline McAlister. The McAlister family moved to Juneau in 1924, where Kay's father found work as the Territory of Alaska's Deputy Auditor. In 1928 the McAlisters moved to a home they purchased from the Bavard family at the top of Gold Street, where members of the family still reside today. Kay attended St. Ann's Catholic School and later Juneau High School. Following high school, Kay worked as a clerk-stenographer for the Territorial Unemployment Compensation Commission of Alaska. Upon leaving that job in 1944, Kay received a letter of recommendation from her boss stating, "I cheerfully recommend her to anyone desiring the services of a girl with her accomplishments." During World War II, Alaska was declared a war zone because of its close proximity to Japan. Juneau became a "subport of debarkation," and 5,000 servicemen arrived in the territorial capital, among them Kay's future husband, Robert G. "Bob" Prather. Bob was a member of a Missouri National Guard unit that was called to active duty during the war. The McAlister sisters loved the whirlwind social scene the War brought to Juneau. Their mother, Nell, worked at a woman's dress shop, Steven's of Juneau, and the sisters had first choice of the fashions as they arrived. The girls were sought after, but when Kay and Bob met, it was love at first sight. They were married in Juneau on September 5, 1945. Kay was the first of her sisters to have a child. Kay and Bob's son, Jeff, was born in November, 1946, much to the delight of all the sisters. Jeff was the first in a large group of cousins who remain close to this day. A second son, Ernest "Barney" Prather, died in infancy. Jeff's sister, Susie (Kollar) was born in 1961. Kay's mother, Nell, widowed at an early age, was lonely, so Kay and Bob moved into the upstairs apartment at the Gold Street home. "Mammy," as grandma McAlister was known to her grandchildren, lived downstairs with Kay's sister Pat Metcalfe and her husband Vern and their family. Mammy was never lonely again.
After the nightly dishes were done in both the up stairs and downstairs apartments, Kay, Pat, and Nell would sit and drink coffee and discuss the day's events. The nightly discussions continued after Kay and Bob moved to Juneau's first condo development, Thunderbird Terrace, in 1965. Kay and Pat would talk on the phone nearly every evening. Kay's best friend was Lillian Olson Nyman, who she met when they were in grade school. Kay said when they met, Lil told a joke and made her laugh. Kay continued to laugh at Lil's jokes the rest of their lives. Lil's son, Ron, remarked that even though the two women lived next door to each other, they too spoke nightly on the phone. Kay continued her career with the Territory and State of Alaska, working for the Territorial Legislature and later the Department of Revenue. She worked her way up from clerical positions, retiring as a tax examiner after 25 years of service. Following retirement, Kay worked during the legislative session for her niece, Kim Metcalfe Helmar, at the Legislative Reporting Service. She also volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul's. Kay was a devout Catholic, attending Mass regularly. She was an avid reader, and one of her favorite subjects was President John Kennedy and his family.
Kay was preceded in death by her parents, husband, Bob Prather, infant son Ernest, and her sisters Patricia Metcalfe and Marilyn Kling. Kay is survived by her son Jeff Prather and her daughter Susie Kollar (Todd), and grandchildren Carlie and Kieran Kollar.
She is also survived by her sister Caroline Gullufsen of Sun City, California; nephews and nieces and their families include the Gullufsens - Patrick (Kris Sell), George, and Carrie (Robert) Haskell; the Metcalfes - Vernon Jr. "Mac" (Ann), Kim, Peter (Sandy), Kathleen "Teeny" (Ray Brudie), Jake (Moira Smith), John (Gemma), Mark (Linda), Patrice (Bill) Parker, and Heather (Ronnie) Bell; the Klings - Carol, Harold Jr., James "Jamie" (Dennis Menoni), and Kelley (Thad) Porter; and the Prathers - David (Cathie) Prather and Janice Prather (Mark) Hess.
A funeral Mass will be held Thursday, 2 p.m., September 5, at the Cathedral of the Nativity. Pallbearers are Peter, Jake, John, and Luke Metcalfe, Patrick Gullufsen, and Leo Helmar; honorary pallbearers are Mac Metcalfe and Tom McLaughlin. Immediately following mass, Kay will be buried next to her husband at Evergreen Cemetery. A reception will be held following the burial at the old family home at 730 Gold Street.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Kay's name may be made to Alzheimer's Resources of Alaska: 325 Hospital Dr., Suite 100 A, Juneau, AK 99801.
Our family would like to thank all the Juneau Pioneer Home employees for the great love and care they provided to our mom over the last nine years.
Published in The Juneau Empire on Sept. 3, 2013
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