Ruth Blankenship Sandvik, 85, passed away Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Kiana.
Ruth Blankenship Sandvik was born in Kotzebue to Walter and Nellie Blankenship. As a child, her family lived in Selawik and Candle, then settled in Kiana. She attended elementary school in Kiana, boarding school in White Mountain and finished high school in Fairbanks where she and her sister, Ida, lived with the bush pilot, Sam White, and his wife, Mary.
She worked her way through the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the secretary to Otto Geist in the Archaeology Department, graduating with a degree in biology in 1951. In college, she met a geological engineering student, Peter Sandvik, the son of Matanuska Valley colonists. She taught high school for a short time in Fairbanks while Pete taught at the college. They were married in 1953 in Fairbanks and eventually became the parents of seven children. The Sandviks lived in several places over the years - Nome, Fairbanks, Colorado, California, Illinois - but always considered Kiana home.
Ruth and her cousin, Robinson "Rob" Blankenship, took over her father's store, Blankenship Trading Post, in Kiana, in the late 1950s when Walter became ill. They were business partners serving customers, meeting the mail plane in Kiana for 30 years as agents for Wien Air Alaska, and Munz Northern Airlines, and operating the post office, which was attached to their store, until 1986. Ruth, Pete, and Rob built Kobuk Camp, a fishing lodge and camp for mining and oil exploration companies. After Rob's death in 2001, Ruth continued to operate the store. She had an incredible work ethic and expected the same of her family.
Ruth was an adventurer, an Iñupiaq woman who walked in two worlds with one spirit. She was the matriarch of her family, directing and including all in the operation of the family business. She loved berry picking, fishing, hunting and boating on the Kobuk River. She traveled to many places in the world, including four continents, Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. She was fascinated by archaeology and the history of Native people of Northwest Alaska. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the archaeological work of Dr.'s Louis Giddings and Doug Anderson, who focused their studies on Iñupiaq people.
Ruth was interested in the success of the community of Kiana, and the people of NANA Region. She served on the Kiana City Council. She was an excellent cook and a fun hostess, opening her home to many for an enjoyable meal, lively discussion and lots of laughter. She would strike up a conversation with anyone, and it was common for her to become fast friends with a seat-mate on an airplane by the end of the flight. It was typical for her to write notes of appreciation or encouragement, often surprising the recipient. She had an uncanny sense of timing. Her special messages always seemed to be delivered when they were most needed.
Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Peter Sandvik; her cousin who was like a brother to her, Rob Blankenship; her parents, Walter and Nellie Blankenship; her sister, Ida Blankenship Evern; her brother-in-law, Bud Evern; her son-in-law, Kelly Culver; and her niece, Ruth Evern.
She is survived by her seven children, Kara Sandvik, and her husband, Steve Hatfield, of Tacoma, Washington; Robin Kornfield, and her husband, Ed, of Anchorage; Helvi Sandvik, of Anchorage; Kristin Nevin, and her husband, Michael, of Flower Mound, Texas; Thor Sandvik, and his wife, Emily, of Columbus, Ohio; Trygve Sandvik, and his wife, Peng Wen, of Yichang, China; and Stacy Dale and her husband, Kitt, of Sheridan, Montana.
She is survived by 16 grandchildren, Tamra and Tyler Kornfield; Robinson, Katy and Peter Culver; Kaylor, Terra and Jack Nevin; Linda, Peter, Haleyand Heather Sandvik; Tian Sandvik; and Rob, Kara and Allie Dale, and also by dear family friend, Bob Mariovelli, and her nieces and nephews and their families, Bucky Blankenship, Curt Evern, Dale Evern, Nellie Evern and Emory Evern.
A celebration of life will be held today, May 6, in Kiana and at 2 p.m. Friday, May 9, at O'Malley's on the Green in Anchorage. She will be buried later this summer at the family grave site on the hill behind Kidways, her favorite camp that was built by Pete and Rob.
Published in Daily News-Miner on May 6, 2014.