Chipper smiles, cookies and a crown so heavy it wouldn’t fit the new queen’s head properly.
For decades, the Pioneers of Alaska “Igloo #6” royal regents in Juneau have crowned a king and queen to represent their group to the entire Pioneers of Alaska organization each year.
On Saturday at the Juneau Pioneers Home, Terry and Dee Brenner were crowned. They were selected by past regents for their involvement in the Juneau community and dedication to the Pioneers of Alaska, a fraternal organization.
Pioneers of Alaska, founded in Nome in 1907, was created to collect and preserve the history of Alaska. Each so-called “igloo” represents a body of people from its respective community, and for each igloo, two regents are chosen to represent their igloo to the statewide group.
After calling on the former regents to stand, 2016 regents Doug and Carol Whelan introduced the new royalty during the crowning ceremony.
From working with Salvation Army to motorcycling to Canada, Terry and Dee Brenner have been involved with the community on several levels. Dee, who dropped out of high school after she married at 17, returned and graduated school with honors, later becoming a paralegal. Terry, who was born on a farm in Michigan, worked day and night. In 1957, the pair met and got married a decade later. After having lived in Alaska for over 40 years — the Brenners moved to Juneau in 1973 along with their 10-month-old son — the Brenners were well-poised to represent Juneau to the rest of the Pioneers.
Regalia in hand, the Whelans dressed the Brenners in dark blue robes and sashes. As Carol Whelan fixed the queen’s crown on Dee Brenner’s head, many pioneers ooh’d and ahh’d. In an instant, the then-quiet crowd erupted with smiles, friendly chuckles and a dozen cellphone camera flashes.
“We’ll do our best to represent Alaska and Igloo #6,” Terry Brenner said, holding his honorary shovel, “and we will also treat these items with respect.”
After the ceremony, the pioneers lined up to grab food of all kinds, from finger sandwiches to chocolate chip cookies. Dee Brenner, holding a platter of goods, recounted how she and her husband learned about their nomination while attending a wedding in Seattle.
“We got the call and I thought, ‘Why us? We just come to the meetings,’” Dee Brenner said.
Jumping in, Carol Whelan noted how active the pair were in not just Igloo #6, but in the entire community. “We like to choose involved people,” she said, nodding at Dee Brenner. Brenner smiled, noting how this was her fourth year as a part of the Pioneers.
When asked what she was looking forward to most about her crowning, Brenner talked about her igloo. “I’m excited about representing our friends and the whole state.”
Terry Brenner seconded what his wife had to say. He says he “feels humbled and honored” to be chosen as the king regent.
One message the Pioneers would like to tell Juneau?
“Go learn about us, and join us!” Carole Miller advised happily. Any resident of Alaska for 20 years or more can join, and anyone can visit their website at pioneersofalaska.org.
“Our aim and goal is to preserve history and benefit the community,” Terry Brenner said. Virginia Calloway, the upcoming grand president of the statewide Pioneers of Alaska and first woman to be elected for the position, agreed.
“We want to do what’s best for Alaska.”