A monumental thing happened very quietly last month with the passing of two great pioneering Alaskan women. They lived unpretentious, stalwart lives, raising families, working hard, losing children, contributing to their communities, and being pillars of their towns, not with fanfare or waving of flags, but with a grace and dignity that marks an exceptional human being.
Shirley Kohls spent well over 60 of her nearly 90 years of life here in Juneau, and practiced law in the state for over 50 years. She was a mentor to countless women who followed, always making time to lend a hand or an ear to one in need. Her full obituary can be read in the Aug. 29 Juneau Empire.
Betty Clauson lived as quiet a life as one could imagine, yet deeply influenced everyone who met her. She spent the majority of her life raising a family in Pelican, with her big, strong husband John and their fishing boat, The Lightly. When the town built a modest library, Betty volunteered to run it, and never has this state known a more devoted librarian. Beyond a love of books, she had a passion for knowledge, and a desire to share that with anyone who showed interest. She was a fine and elegant woman who helped to make her small town just that much better.
They were both strong and kind women. They were intelligent, forthright, no-nonsense, and genteel. They made this state a better place by their having lived here, and it is made lesser so with their departures. They are the true “divas” we should all strive and hope to be, and examples of what it is to be an Alaskan woman.