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Neva Egan, the first Alaska first lady, dies at 96

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011

Neva Egan, the first woman to be Alaska’s first lady, has died in the Juneau Pioneer’s Home. She was 96.

Egan was the wife of Bill Egan, Alaska’s first and fourth governor, and resided in the Governor’s Mansion for 12 years in the state’s early days. Her son, Sen. Dennis Egan, now represents Juneau in the Alaska Legislature.

Egan was remembered Thursday by those who knew her as a warm and caring person who helped build the state.

“It’s a sad day, we’re losing a lot of wonderful people who really founded this state,” said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. She said, “Alaska and Alaskans really owe her a debt of gratitude.”

Neva Egan’s work for Alaska began even before it was a state, as she lived in Washington, D.C. for 19 months while Bill Egan worked for statehood.

She later told the Empire that she hated the hot weather there, despite her Kansas upbringing, and wouldn’t live outside Alaska again.

“The weather here was so good I never left,” she told the Empire in 1998.

While Neva and Bill had lived in Valdez prior to becoming his becoming governor, they later became fixtures in the Juneau community.

Bill Egan served two four-year terms as governor after statehood in 1959, and then was elected again in 1970.

Kerttula, the daughter of long-time legislator Jay Kerttula, said she remembered legislators’ children being invited over to the Governor’s Mansion while living in Juneau during session.

“She was a very happy person who liked to have a good time with us,” she said.

Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, said “Egan is a magical name in Alaska politics.”

“While Gov. Bill Egan and Sen. Dennis Egan are the elected officials, it was Neva Egan who brought her charm and gracious spirt to the Governor’s Mansion, and she will be missed.”

“I can’t imagine Alaska without her,” Kerttula agreed.

Sen. Dennis Egan took Thursday off to be with family, but Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, led the Legislative Council, which she chairs, in a moment of silence in memory of Neva Egan. Sen. Egan is a member of the Legislative Council.

“She was a gracious lady,” Menard said afterwards.

“I know this is a sad and memorable time to look back at all the Egan family meant to the state of Alaska,” she said.

“With that I just send my condolences to the Egan family and especially our wonderful colleague Sen Dennis Egan,” Menard said.

“When you are in a political family, especially a political family like the Egans, she served as well and she made this a better state,” Kerttula said.

Neva Egan passed away Wednesday night about 9:40 p.m. at the Juneau Pioneer Home, said the Senate Majority press office.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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