Lifelong Alaskan Fortuna H. Odell, age 97, died on August 28, 2013 at the Juneau Pioneers' Home. She was born on August 6, 1916 in Marshall, Alaska to Annie and Roy Hunter. Her mother was an Eskimo from the Lower Yukon, while her father came to Alaska in the early twentieth century to search for gold. Fortuna was the first child born in Marshall, which was called Fortuna Ledge at the time. She attended a territorial school in Marshall, then a BIA high school in White Mountain. She temporarily left high school to return to Marshall to help care for her mother who was suffering from tuberculosis. After her mother's death, she completed her high school education at a BIA school in Eklutna. She graduated in 1936 then moved to Juneau to accept a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was the first person with an Eskimo background to work in the Juneau BIA office. In 1939 she married William Odell, an employee of the AJ Mine. They welcomed two children but later divorced. For a time, Fortuna stayed home to care for her children, but she returned to the work force in 1952 as an employee of what was then called the Territorial Health Department but eventually became the Department of Health and Social Services. When she retired from the Department in 1982, she was the Program Specialist for Crippled Children's Services.
She lived a uniquely Alaskan life. She learned the traditional subsistance lifestyle from her mother. She grew up without electricity. During the winter in Marshall, her mail was delivered by dog sled. She was a child in Marshall when Amos Berg made his historic trip down the Yukon River, and that is where their lifelong friendship began. To attend high school, she traveled on the old river boat steamers that used wood for fuel. She flew in a canvas covered airplane from White Mountain to Nome. She saw placer gold mining in Marshall and hard rock gold mining in Juneau. She knew and supported Elizabeth Peratrovich, who worked to end discrimation of Alaskan Natives; and throughout her life, she remained interested in the governing and growth of her beloved Alaska.
She was preceded in death by her two children William (Buddy) and Nancy, and her eight siblings. She is survived by her grandaughter Stacey White of Minneapolis, her sister-in-law Frieda Hunter and the numerous descendents of her sister and brothers who live throughout Alaska. There will be a Celebration Service at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 7644 Mendenhall Loop Road, on Friday, September 20th, at 5:30PM. A potluck supper will immediately follow. Also, on Monday, September 23rd, there will be a Remembrance Service at the Juneau Pioneers' Home at 2:30PM. Refreshments will follow.
Published by Juneau Empire on Sep. 19, 2013.