For the past decade, Katherine Hope has stood on her two feet greeting and guiding locals and visitors for the Mount Roberts Tramway.
“I am the lead host greeter for Mount Roberts and I’ve been a greeter at Kmart for two weeks and a greeter for Walmart, and the whole city — the state of Alaska — loved me when I used to greet them because I care,” Hope said.
Katherine’s history of assisting others began in grade school with, among other things, cutting hair at a Presbyterian mission school.
“I helped the missionaries when I was in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade,” Hope said. “They wanted their hair done and cut so I permed and trimmed their hair. That’s how I learned to help with the elders. … I just did it and it came out fine, then I gave a perm and I fixed their hair. Same thing when I got out of high school for the junior and senior prom — I used to fix everybody’s hair. By the time I was graduating, a half hour before that, I did not have time for my (own) hair but I looked OK, so that’s just the way I live my life, to help somebody out.”
Katherine was selected for “People of Juneau” by her neighbor Terry Baker.
“She’s been an inspiration to me, and she’s always has a nice thing to say about everybody,” Baker said. “She’s been through a lot.”
At eight years old, Katherine lost her father to drowning. Alone at 26, Katherine’s mother had a hard time taking care of her children, which caused Katherine to leave home and join the Presbyterian mission school in Haines from first through eighth grades. Hope then moved to Sitka to attend Sheldon Jackson High School. In order to afford the high school, Hope worked at Chatham Cannery and on the school’s campus.
It was faith that carried Katherine through the years of working and traveling from home to home.
“Everywhere I went was my home, I just had faith,” Hope said. “I did not grow up any other way, I just knew He was there to help me.”
Katherine settled down in Sitka after graduating high school to raise her children and joined the workforce once her children were older. In 1978, Katherine was in her late thirties when she applied to work for the Sitka Pulp Company. The company rejected her application.
“I figured they just didn’t want me, until I got a letter from the Department of Labor, which told me what it was all about,” Hope said.
In 1989, Katherine left power trolling in Port Alexander to join 18 other women in Juneau’s Dimond Courthouse. A lawsuit had been filed against the Sitka Pulp Company for the company’s discriminatory behavior towards women. The company paid a price. Hope was awarded $10,000 in the settlement, which she used to travel the world. When considering her family heritage, Hope was destined to travel and meet travellers.
“My maiden name is Lott, and that’s an English name,” Hope said. “My grandpa came over from England and married a Yup’ik lady so my dad is half English and half Yup’ik. (He) married my beautiful mother and she was Tlingit, Irish, and Russian — that makes me five nations.”
Hope believes her family heritage is what has made her so successful at greeting people all over the world.
“I stick up for every nationality on this Earth and I welcome as much as I can,” Hope said. When she’s not greeting at the Tram, Hope makes sure to encourage and support Juneau’s homeless.
“She’s just a light for Juneau,” said Terry when commenting on what Katherine brings to the community. “She never quits.”
• Ray Friedlander is a Douglas writer who contributes the monthly People of Juneau feature to the Juneau Empire. To nominate someone for a profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “People of Juneau” in the subject line. Include your name, contact information, the name of the nominee and their contact information, plus why you think they deserve it.