Shirley Rae Wiegand
1946 - 2020
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Shirley Rae (Branae) Wiegand, 74, of Fairbanks, Alaska passed away on Dec. 26, 2020, at her home. Shirley lost her two-year battle with AML: Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was born in 1946, in Big Timber, Montana. Shirley completed high school at Sweetgrass County High School in Big Timber. In the fall of 1963, she started college at Western Montana College. Later on, she earned her masters degree from Mississippi State University.
In May of 1966, Shirley married Dick Wiegand, of Wolf Point, Montana, in Big Timber, Montana. He was completing his teaching degree at Western Montana College having served four years in the U.S. Navy, while Shirley had completed and received her teaching degree in 1967 and taught one year in Lima, Montana.
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents Helmer and Barbara Branae. She is survived by her husband Dick Wiegand, of Fairbanks, Alaska; Daughter, Dr. Shannon Wiegand, husband Mac Whisler, granddaughter, Riley, of Fairbanks, Alaska; son, Shane Wiegand, wife Rhiannon, grandchildren Emma, Elliott, Hannah, Tanner and Conner, all of Fairbanks, Alaska; son, Shawn Wiegand, wife Megan, granddaughter Lena, twins Olive and Forrest Wiegand; brother, Gary Branae, wife Linda of Vancouver, Washington; sister, Karen Graham, husband Jim, of Chester, Montana.
In 1969, Shirley and Dick along with their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Shannon, accepted teaching jobs with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as Elementary teachers in the isolated Yupik Eskimo village of Akiachak, Alaska, located on the Kuskokwim River. They loved the children, the people, the hunting, fishing and isolation, but decided they would only remain in each village they taught in for two years, then move on.
In the summer of 1971, they finished teaching in Akiachak. Their next stop was the Athabaskan Indian village of Shageluk located on the Innoko River. Their son, Shane, was born in Bethel that same year. Shirley taught kindergarten through fourth grade. Again, they experienced all the happenings of teaching in the Alaskan Bush before moving next to the Yupik Eskimo village of Mountain Village in 1973.
In March of 1974 while teaching in Mountain Village Shirley had to fly to Anchorage to give birth to their third child Shawn. In June of 1975, they moved to Anchorage for approximately 8 months before moving to Fairbanks. For that short period of time, Shirley remained home with their three children. In 1976, Shirley was hired by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. She taught at Barnette Elementary School for the next 27 years and loved every minute she spent with her students and colleagues.
In 1991, Shirley and Dick hosted a Foreign Exchange Student from Belgium. Peter quickly became part of the family, and over the last 27 years, the two families have become quite close. This relationship led to many joint adventures throughout Europe and Alaska.
Spending time with family was paramount for Shirley. Over the last 57 years, there weren't very many days that she didn't spend without seeing one of her 3 kids or 10 grandkids. She was always planning camping trips, family vacations, reunions, international trips, fishing trips, cross-country road trips, hikes, or blueberry picking gatherings. You name it, she was planning it. Shirley loved adventure. She was also very content at home with Dick. Shirley's kitchen was always pulling you in with yummy smells and delicious eats.
Shirley and Dick had an open-door policy at their home. It was not uncommon for them to host former students/colleagues/friends from the Bush, the Lower 48, or from overseas. This led to many invitations to visit other people around the world and inspired the desire to travel.
In April of 2016, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, Shirley and Dick traveled to China. Their trip started in Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, they flew to Shanghai spending several days touring. Their next stop was Wuhan, where they boarded a riverboat to cruise for almost a week up the Yangtze River, through the locks of the Three Gorges Dam and Lesser Three Gorges up to the largest city in the world, Chongqing. They departed the boat and flew to Beijing, stayed in a very large hotel, and ate a steak dinner at Morton's Steak House, in celebration of their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Shirley called herself the Black sheep of her family because she married a wild man and moved to Alaska, but she certainly wasn't to her family. She was a shining star always wearing a smile and ready to tell you everything about her day and wanting to know about yours. Someone recently told Dick he was lucky to have Shirley in his life. He told that to Shirley years ago, but she responded with, "No, it wasn't luck, it was Fate. We were supposed to be together and build our family."

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Published in Daily News-Miner on Jan. 17, 2021.
Memories & Condolences
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15 entries
February 2, 2021
So sorry for your loss. May your fond memories sustain you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and we send you our sincerest sympathy.
Sandy Glover
January 28, 2021
My most heartfelt condolences to the Wiegand family. May God's grace comfort you in your loss.
Don Fielder
January 24, 2021
I am so sorry for your loss.

Mrs. Wiegand was my second grade teacher at Barnette elementary, back in 1982-83. I was pretty young but I do remember her! A wonderful person and teacher!!
Julie coty
January 22, 2021
Dick & Family:
So sorry for your loss.
George T Roderick
January 22, 2021
We have many fond memories of Shirley we will always cherish. When we camped together, be it at Tangle Lakes, Arctic Man or beside the road we could count on great food and killer canasta games. We still use Shirley's Norwegian method for planting potatoes and will miss searching for the perfect "black sheep" gift. You will be missed.
Doug and Susie Crevensten
January 22, 2021
When I read this I felt sadness for all the family but at the same time I was remembering Shirley’’s smile and the joy she brought to others. My deepest condolences to all the family and those who knew Shirley.
Sandy Cummings
January 21, 2021
Shirley and Dick had a marriage of love and respect that made them wonderful and special to their grandchildren. I am saddened to hear of her loss after the relentless fight she waged for the last two years!
Tanya Obrien
January 20, 2021
I met Shirley at Barnette Elementary School when she first came to Fairbanks. Her smile and open arms always made me feel like her best friend as I am sure others felt the same. Shirley will be missed but never forgotten. May God give her family comfort in knowing how many of us cherished Shirley.
Joyce Bennett
January 20, 2021
Sending our condolences and prayers for strength.
January 18, 2021
Shirley was truly an inspiration to our daughter at Barnette Elementary. We appreciate her loving care as a teacher and the concern for a student. Loving thoughts are wished for the family and you will have such wonderful memories of her to help you though this tough time. She was a wonderful caring person and we will always remember her. Karen & Digby Cook
Karen Cook
January 18, 2021
I am sorry for your loss
Lance Clouser
January 18, 2021
As ones of the many who were blessed by Dick and Shirley's open-door policy throughout our lives, Shirley's constant love for all strengthens us to this day. From hosting exchange students to having come-one, come-all Thanksgivings, Dick and Shirley have been role models for our adult lives.

There are so many memories to share, none without tears now. Shirley made a difference in ways she will never know. Six years ago, as our Italian exchange daughter left Minneapolis to return home, we were hurting over when, if ever, we would see her again. In Shirley’s serendipitous but persistent way of having confidence in the future, the very next day she posted a simple picture of her and Dick having breakfast in Belgium with Peter and his kids. She calmly let us know that we too will be OK.

For Shawn, Shane, Shannon, and the grandchildren: all the superlatives work--a giant has fallen, a beacon has gone dark, a bell has gone silent. So few have made so much of a difference in the lives of so many as your Mom has.

For Dick: Fate did more than bring you and Shirley together and build your family. With Fate, you and Shirley have spread kindness, generosity, and love across the planet.

It’s time to have a cup of hot water.
Meredith and Pete Rogers
January 18, 2021
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
Robert LaJiness
January 17, 2021
May God’s loving kindness and comfort help you and your family through this very difficult time. Matthew 5:4
January 17, 2021
My condolences to the family . May you find comfort in your treasured memories
and Gods promise to return our loved ones . 1st Thessalonians 4 : 13 & 14 .
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