Former Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center, in Anchorage, from Juneau Monday morning after suffering a heart attack, and he is listed in critical condition last night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Kookesh, who is the chairman of the Sealaska Corp. board of directors, was at Juneau International Airport waiting to board a flight when he had the heart attack, his daughter Elaine Kookesh said Monday.
“It was a shock,” Elaine Kookesh said. “Nobody expected this. He’s the kind of person if he gets sick, he’s still out doing whatever he’s supposed to do.”
Elaine Kookesh said she and her sister Reanna will fly to Anchorage Monday evening to be with their father and that they should have more information about his condition Tuesday. She said doctors were able to remove a blockage and are expecting an “optimistic outcome.”
“They’re going to keep him sedated for 24 hours,” Elaine Kookesh said. “Everybody sounds optimistic.”
Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl, who serves with Albert Kookesh on the Sealaska Corp. board, said in a short email Monday morning that his wife Sally said he “was smiling and talking.” Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, who served with Albert Kookesh in the Senate prior to this year, said he had just seen the former senator two days before his heart attack.
“I was sitting with him for three hours Saturday out at (the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska), for Elizabeth Peratrovich (Day),” Egan said. “And he was fine then.”
Sealaska Corp. released a statement reading, “Sealaska is aware that Board Chair and former Senator Albert Kookesh has been transported out of Juneau, and was conscious and speaking at the time. We cannot speculate on the cause or his condition until further information is made available.”
Members of the Senate Majority issued a press release Monday night expressing concern.
“Albert is a good friend of a number of people in the Legislature,” said Senate President Charlie Huggins. “We’re proud to be his colleague. He is an admirable family man and we wish him a quick recovery.”
“Albert is a dear friend of mine,” said Senator Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. “I feel terrible. We were kids together. We grew up together right here in Juneau. I wish him the best and my heart goes out to his wife Sally and their children.”
“The news is devastating,” said Senator Donny Olson, D-Golovin. “Albert and I are very close friends and we worked together on issues related to the Bush and the Alaska Native community. We’re all praying for a speedy recovery.”
“I wish Senator Kookesh the very best,” said Senator Bert Stedman, R-Sitka. “I hope he has a full recovery so that he can continue his leadership role in the native community.”
“We are all very fond of Albert and he brought a vision of Alaska that no one else has,” said Senator Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. “His vision for Native Alaska has helped improve lives in rural Alaska for decades to come. I hope he recovers soon.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.