Gone from this world and on to her next adventure is Veka Ann Nails, born Jamason, age only 70 years, our beloved mother, sister, aunt, great-aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother, teacher, mentor, role model and friend.|
Veka took all things in stride and made the best out of any situation life handed her. She was tenacious, vibrant, strong, fierce and fiercely independent, a natural nurturer, and a loyal and true friend to those she allowed into her heart. She never stopped being hungry for knowledge. "It was a good day if you learned something!" was one of her favorite sayings. She never stopped practicing what she meant by that either, even going back to college in her 50s and earning a bachelor's degree in business and accounting at UAF. She made the Dean's List every semester.
Born to Paul and Viola Jamason in 1943 in Lansing, Michigan, she was one of five loving sisters, leaving behind Susanne, Linda, Mary and Christine. One of the first hardships life handed Veka was being born the eldest; consequently when her mother Viola passed way too young, Veka was charged with helping her father raise her four sisters.
After high school graduation, she joined the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam era and lived through the social stigma of being a woman in the service. She faced the challenges of surviving the death of her first husband, and raising two sons, Michael and Charles (Chuck) Anderson (deceased), as a single mother.
In 1972, after leaving the service, she met and joined in union, Darrell Vaught, (deceased) and became instant mom to three very unruly, undisciplined, snot-nosed kids: Susan (now Larson), Marie (now Franich) and Daryl Vaught. We all took an instant disliking to her rules and discipline, organization and education - all she stood for. She then packed up and took off on an adventure with Darrell and kids to Alaska, driving from Bossier City, Louisiana, up the Alaska Highway in a 1961 GMC three-speed camper truck.
The family arrived in the dead of winter at the old Aurora Lodge, where the truck broke down, and Salcha became the family's home. What a change it was, going in a heartbeat from relatively civilized city living to a dry cabin in the "boondocks." That was a winter of learning, hardship and love, and resulted in the birth of "The Baby" Christy Ann Vaught (now Herman). While we spent our first winter in Salcha, we learned from her respect for our elders, discipline, not to ever say that we were bored and to read a page a day of the dictionary, so that we were always learning something. With the birth of "The Baby" Christy, came more changes: a move "to town" (or at least Badger Road) and a house with running water!
She and Darrell took jobs - she as a line cook and bartender, he as a cab driver. They later became "owner-operators" of Checker Cab No. 33 during the pipeline days, working 12-14 hour shifts per day. Mom eventually went on to become a dispatcher for Rod Moore at Yellow Cab for more than 20 years. Many of you may remember her as the stern-faced woman in the lobby of the Northward Building. She dispatched and kept track of up to 60 cabs per night, delivering safe rides to all the rowdy pipeline construction workers on R&R, drunks, derelicts, ladies of the night and various other forms of life ... high and low.
After Darrell's passing, she met and fell in love with her late husband, Gary Lettau. She and Gary endured more of life's ups and downs. During Veka and Gary's time together, her daughter, Christy, graduated college, met and married Jake Herman.
Veka loved her grandchildren: Chas, Jaimie and Kelly Wardle (now Keays), Heather Brown, Mikey Niese, and the four wonders of her life, "The Babies:" Ariel, Joseph, Johnny and Alexander Herman, with whom she lived the last year of her life.
While all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren brought love, joy and wonderment to her, the Herman kids were the ones she got to "love on" daily and spend the most time with. She cherished every moment of time spent with them. She made every moment with them count, always teaching, mentoring, reading to them, doing arts and crafts, questioning, challenging them to learn and making them reach for knowledge. Her love and desire to continue to be a part of their lives and watch them grow into their own was what kept Veka alive the last five years of her life. She considered them "the bestest" part of her life.
Veka survived thyroid cancer, breast cancer and lived with numerous other medical conditions, including diabetes, COPD and congestive heart failure. We know she died of a heart attack, but leaving her grandchildren behind is her greatest loss ever. May she continue to watch over them and guide them in spirit.
She died on 4/14/14 at 4:14 a.m., the symmetry of which, given her love of numerology, would have pleased her immensely. She died at the home of and in the loving care of her son-in-law, Jake, who valiantly administered CPR until the ambulance came.
We thank the ones who helped her along her way, giving special recognition and praise to Dr. Christina Wright at Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center, who went above and beyond the call of duty in being respectful of our mother's dignity as a patient and administering great care.
A memorial service will be performed by Father Scott Fisher at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. A celebration of life and reception will be held at the home of John and Marie Franich immediately after. Call if you need directions.
Published in Daily News-Miner on May 11, 2014