Pioneer Mary Joyce was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame last week, according to Michael Ward, manager of the Taku Glacier Lodge.
Joyce was a Southeast Alaska entrepreneur and adventurer during the 1930s until her death in 1976. In 1935, Joyce successfully completed a 1,000-mile, three-month solo sled dog trek from the Taku Lodge, south of Juneau, to Fairbanks that earned her a place in Alaskan history, and the Taku Lodge a designated place on the National Registry of Historic Places.
During her time in Juneau, Joyce owned and operated the Taku Lodge, became the first woman radio operator in the Territory of Alaska, was a hunting guide, pilot, flight attendant, nurse, nominated beauty pageant contestant, Juneau bar owner and Alaska Territorial Representative. Joyce was an actress, starring as Taku Mary in “Orphans of the North,” filmed in and around the lodge. Joyce also taught survival classes for the Defense Dept. in WWII and was a consultant for the building of the Alaska Highway, as she was one of the few who had traveled that route.
The induction took place on Feb. 28, at the Anchorage Loussac Library. Taku Lodge owner Michelle Ward, and Mary Joyce researcher, Mary Lou Gerbi, accepted the award in Joyce’s honor.
Two Juneau women nominated Joyce for the honor — Kathy Ruddy and Linda Rosenthal.
The Mission of the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame is to honor, in perpetuity, women whose contributions have influenced the direction of their community or of Alaska in any field, including, but not limited to the arts, athletics, business, community service, conservation, education, government, health, the humanities, Alaska Native affairs, philanthropy, politics, theology and science.
According to a release from Wings Airways, the award coincides with the 90-year anniversary of the historic Taku Glacier Lodge. Juneau physician, Dr. Harry Carlos DeVighne built the lodge as a commercial hunting and fishing resort in 1923. Shortly after opening his resort, DeVighne received national attention as Alaska’s Commissioner of Health during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic. The epidemic was the catalyst of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and the Walt Disney children’s classic film, Balto. Throughout its history multiple Juneau families have carried on the Lodge’s tradition of Alaskan hospitality.
Today, the lodge is owned and operated by Ken and Michelle Ward, and run by their son and his wife, Michael and Jessalyn. In the summer season, Wings Airways and members of the Ward family partner to run tours of the Taku Lodge for locals and visitors alike.