2011 Pioneers of Alaska regents both history fans

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2011

FAIRBANKS — The 2011 Pioneers of Alaska King and Queen Regents Jim Moody and Sharon Boko have been members of the Pioneers of Alaska for decades and both share a love of Alaska and Fairbanks history.

Sam Harrel / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Sam Harrel / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Moody joined Pioneer Igloo No. 4 in 1962, and Boko became a member of Pioneer Auxiliary No. 8 in 1967.

Moody was born in Fairbanks in 1932, into an extended family of early Yukon residents who traveled to Interior Alaska shortly after the founding of Fairbanks in 1902-1903.

Almost everyone in his family since, male and female, became involved with the Pioneers of Alaska organization when they became eligible.

Grandpa Jim Stewart was the only hold out. “He wasn’t much of a joiner,” Moody said.

Moody’s father, Edson, died when Moody was three years old, from an old mining injury. His mother, Alaska Stewart Moody, married L.E. “Jack” Linck in 1941, who worked with the Fairbanks Exploration Company. He was a king regent and served as Igloo No. 4 secretary for 13 years and was the first manager of the Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home.

Moody is recording secretary and served as president of Igloo No. 4 in 1994.

In Boko’s 44-year-membership in the Pioneers of Alaska Women’s Auxiliary No. 8, she has served in almost every office, including president.

From the beginning, Boko said she loved going to meetings and hearing the ladies such as Clara Rust, Alaska Linck, June Sidars, Christine Waddell, Mary Stock, Tilly Link, Pat Rogge and others discuss Pioneer matters.

“A lot of them I’ve considered my mentors and held them in awe. They went through so much in the early days, Boko said. “It’s a very big honor to stand with those ladies. They lived very hard pioneer lives.”

Boko’s introduction to Alaska started with stories told by an uncle who helped build the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway during World War II.

“My dad was bitten by the Alaska bug and five years later, in December of 1950, we headed up the Alcan Highway,” she said.

Boko remembers the harrowing trip north with her family in the middle of winter, fording ice floe-covered roads, crossing corduroy bridges and surviving whiteouts.

But the scariest part of the trip occurred near Whitehorse, Canada, where a tractor-trailer jackknifed on a mountain pass late one night, blocking the road and stranding travelers.

For 10 hours with temperatures at 45 below zero, the family huddled in their car running the engine every 15 minutes to keep from freezing. Canadian Mounties provided assistance coming through every few hours with gasoline, Boko recalled.

Fairbanks hostess Eva McGowan found the family a Quonset hut to stay in, and later an apartment on Fourth Avenue between Cushman and Lacey streets.

“It was a triplex and the other two units were leased to the overflow from Fourth Avenue. You’re right; they were ladies of the night, and as you can imagine, we didn’t stay there long either,” Boko said.

The family eventually found a home in Slaterville.

Both regents attended local schools, Boko beginning in seventh grade, and both graduated from Main School, which now houses City Hall. Both regents are graduates of the University of Alaska.

Moody recalls his elementary and high school classes in the 1930s until his graduation in 1950 as being quite small and “replete with pioneer names such as Greimann, Busby, Geraghty, Hutchison, Link, Compeau, Traxler, Callahan, Eagan, and Wien.”

“Many of the classmates have kept in touch even though they have moved elsewhere,” he said.

During his childhood, Moody spent summers with his grandparents, James and Christia Stewart, at their mining operation on Deadwood Creek in the Circle District, and later clearing homestead land at Chisolm (Lost) Lake near Birch Lake, which he uses as a personal retreat to this day.

Moody started working on survey crews at age 16, beginning on the construction and paving of the Richardson Highway, followed by work with the USGS Naval Oil Unit and the Alaska Road Commission.

Upon college graduation, Moody was hired as a field engineer for the Territorial Department of Aviation in charge of constructing a new airport at Bethel and selecting sites for smaller fields in the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta.

During his long career, Moody is one of the few people who has visited nearly every community in Alaska. He earned his private pilot license and purchased a Cessna 170 in 1960.

A longtime history buff, Moody also enjoys photography.

Throughout high school and college, Boko took on a variety of jobs around Fairbanks from vegetable washer to legal secretary, making longtime friends along the way.

She earned a bachelor of business administration with a major in management and minor in education from the University of Alaska, and added 46 additional credits during the next few years. She began teaching at Lathrop High School in 1962.

She and Gene Yurkovich married in 1959, and had four children. In 1978, she married Bob Boko and retired from teaching in 1983, the year her fifth child was born.

Boko worked as a bookkeeper for a decade, followed by substitute teaching and joining the Ryan Middle School office staff, retiring in 2004. Recently, she began working as a part-time retail clerk.

Boko’s passion is fighting heart disease through the Go Red luncheon and annual Heart Walk. Her parents and her husband, Bob, died of heart attacks and she underwent a triple bypass in 2007.

Moody and Boko consider it an honor to wear the regent regalia and represent the Pioneers of Alaska at numerous functions during the next year — especially Golden Days events.

And the new king and queen regents are on the same page when it comes to gathering and preserving the relics and early history of Alaska, one of the main purposes of the Pioneers of Alaska.

“Too much has already been lost and it’s crucial to recognize history,” Boko said.

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