The list of accomplishments for the 2012 Gold Medal Basketball Tournament’s Lion Monarch Dr. Walter Soboleff Award was long and noteworthy.
Before his name was announced, those recognizing some of the accolade’s began chanting his name form the stands of Juneau Douglas High School gymnasium on Friday, just as the fans had chanted ‘Tlingit Heat’ and ‘Rudy’ and ‘MVP’ and various other supporting cheers throughout the tournament.
“I am very honored,” Sen. Albert Kookesh said as he addressed the crowd, wearing sweat pants for a relaxing day in the gym. “If I had known about this I wouldn’t have been wearing pajamas.”
The Lion Monarch Dr. Walter Soboleff Award is given to an individual who personifies sportsmanship, leadership, spirit, motivation and pride in their team, village and community.
Kookesh was noted for tireless fundraising for sports in Angoon and Alaska; as a role model for those wishing to live a healthy alcohol and drug-free lifestyle; a grandfather who makes all his children’s and grandchildren’s basketball games; coordinating teams and tournament in his community; paying for uniforms, warm-ups and trophies.
Kookesh has played in 32 years of Gold Medal in three divisions. His teams were in 17 championship games and won nine and Kookesh was an all tourney selection 14 times.
Kookesh is a commercial and subsistence fisherman. He is an active leader in the Alaska Native Brotherhood and a tireless advocate for Alaska Native issues.
“His service to Alaska Natives and rural Alaskans is unquestionable,” Juneau Lion’s Club member Sasha Soboleff stated in the presentation. “He is active in community, region and state and always makes sure that the elderly and those in need are taken care of, especially in his giving of subsistence foods to those that need help.”
Kookesh has a law degree from the University of Washington; was unanimously to serve as Co-Chair of the Alaska Federation of natives and has been co-chair since 1993; was appointed as Special Assistant for Rural Affairs to Governor Tony Knowles; has served in the Alaska Legislature since 1997 (first in the State House and then the State Senate since 2005) and represents the largest Senate District in the U.S., including 126 communities.
Kookesh has received the Citizen of the Year Award at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention and is the Chairman of the Sealaska Board.
“We in Southeast Alaska have benefitted from Albert’s public service,” Soboleff said. “He will forever be celebrated in our region as our Senator and most importantly, as our friend and our brother. If he is anything like his Uncle Walter Soboleff, he has another 30 years of service to his people.”
Soboleff stated that Kookesh is Tlingit, Brown Bear, Tekwaidee from Angoon and his Tlingit name is Ka ‘shaan.
Kookesh met his wife, Sally Woods, at Mt. Edgecumbe High School and they have been married 41 years, have five children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson. Many of those joined him on the gymnasium floor.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life,” Kookesh said. “So much of what we do, and should do, is for those people that put us here and for those people that will follow us here. To be able to share this with my family and all these people tonight was very humbling, and very special.”