Dolores Mattila Heine, 90, formerly of Fairbanks, died Sept. 29, 2012, at Emerald Heights Retirement Community in Redmond, Wash.
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Dolores moved to Washington after the death of her husband, Darwin, but her heart remained in Alaska where she lived for 50 years.
Dolores Elizabeth was born to Eino and Lydia Mattila on Nov. 16, 1921, in Mountain Iron, Minn.
As a high school senior, Dolores earned the Golden Eaglet, the highest honor the Girl Scouts awarded at the time.
Dolores knew she wanted to become a nurse upon graduating from Mountain Iron High School in 1939. So strong was this desire that she matriculated for one year to Virginia (Minnesota) Junior College to meet the 18 year-old age requirement for the Kahler School of Nursing in Rochester, Minn. Dolores earned her nursing degree in 1943, and after working one year in the Virginia hospital, she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps.
Dolores began her service aboard the hospital ship, St. Olaf, and served in Saipan and Guam caring for World War II casualties. Upon returning home, Dolores attended the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill, and in 1948 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in public health nursing.
While at the university, Dolores answered an ad for a school nurse position in Juneau, where the Last Frontier first captured her heart in 1948. She lived in Juneau for three years, spending some of that time as a tenant of Judge Wickersham's widow, in a house that is now a state historic site.
Apart from her occupation as a nurse, Dolores accompanied the Juneau Singers and was regularly sought out as an organist. After a brief return to Minnesota, Dolores returned to work at the Ketchikan hospital while helping care for her newborn nephew.
In January 1953, she accepted a position with the Territorial Department of Health in Palmer. There Dolores met her husband, Darwin. They married on Jan. 7, 1955, at St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, and drove to Fairbanks the next day, making their first home in the Polaris Building. Dolores worked for the Public Health Department, in the historic George C. Thomas Memorial Library. She and Darwin made their home in Fairbanks from 1955 to 1997. Dolores left her nursing career in 1956 to raise their two children.
An accomplished musician, numerous opportunities and enjoyment came to Dolores through music. She performed her first solo piano recital at age 11 and performed regularly for the rest of her life, both as a soloist and an accompanist. She taught piano to many eager students over the years, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1973. She traveled with the University of Alaska Choir of the North as accompanist for a number of years.
Dolores lived out her life of strong faith in many ways. She was a woman of hospitality, always extending welcome to newcomers and offering whatever help they might need (especially important living in the far north). She also utilized her gift of music in service of her faith, as a church organist for more than 30 years at Fairbanks Lutheran Church where she and Darwin were active members.
Finally, Dolores was an adventurer who enjoyed traveling and learning. Besides traveling abroad with the army and extensively throughout Alaska, she and Darwin also visited Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, her ancestral Finland, other parts of Europe and most of the 50 states. During retirement the couple wintered in Florida, driving each way, and enjoyed meeting family and friends across the United States along the way.
She loved driving the Alaska Highway most of all and would travel it with anyone, any time. Her first trip was in 1955 - dusty washboard roads and narrow hairpin turns did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm for taking the trip countless times in the years since then.
Dolores was preceded in death by her husband, Darwin, in 1997.
She is survived by her son, Philip, and wife Lois of Fairbanks; daughter, Carol Churchill, and husband Mark of Redmond, Wash.; grandchildren, Jeff Churchill, and wife An Tran of Bothell, Wash., Elisa (Heine) McCulloch, and husband Shawn of Seattle, Amy (Churchill) Hrubes, and husband Derek of Grand Junction, Colo., Christine Heine of Seattle, and James Churchill of Newcastle, Wash.; great-granddaughters, Elizabeth Churchill and Brinley Hrubes; sister, Elaine Johnson of Cambridge, Minn.; and three nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, at Fairbanks Lutheran Church, 1012 Cowles St.
Gifts of remembrance may be sent to Fairbanks Lutheran Church Building Fund, 1012 Cowles Street, Fairbanks, AK 99701; LAMP (Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots), P.O. Box 480167, New Haven, MI 48048; or Emerald Heights Benevolence Fund, 10901 176th Circle NE, Redmond, WA 98052.
Arrangements were entrusted to Barton's Family Funeral Services in Kirkland, Wash., and Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home in Fairbanks.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Oct. 11, 2012
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