State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, June 01, 2003

Body of missing Valdez doctor found

ANCHORAGE - A Valdez doctor known for his wilderness skills was found dead in the water in the Port of Valdez on Friday, two days after he was reported missing.

The body of Dr. Andrew Embick, 52, was spotted by a kayaker about 8:30 a.m. submerged in a few feet of silty water near a rocky shore just east of the town's small boat harbor, Valdez police said. Authorities recovered the body a half mile from where his empty rowing scull was found drifting Wednesday.

Police Chief Joseph Michaud said the body would be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy. "We're not willing to speculate on the cause of death," Michaud said.

Embick, an experienced boater, left his wife a note Wednesday morning, saying he was going out on the water. His empty rowing scull was found drifting later that morning.

Embick and his wife, Dr. Kathleen Todd, were partners at the Valdez Medical Clinic. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Embick had practiced medicine in Valdez since 1979.

He was known for his participation in rigorous outdoor races and authored the 1994 book, "Fast & Cold: A Guide to Alaska White Water" and the Valdez ice-climbing manual "Blue Ice and Black Gold."

Three weeks ago, Embick returned from a six-month sabbatical in northern Pakistan, where he provided medical care in a village. He took the leave of absence after a long dispute with administrators of the Valdez Community Hospital.

Hospitalized mom sees graduation by video

KODIAK - Cancer patient Maria Gonzalez watched her daughter's graduation from her bed in the Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center with the help of students in a high school class.

Gonzalez, whose terminal condition prevented her from attending the sixth-grade graduation for her oldest daughter, Crystal, saw the ceremony thanks to high school students in Clayton Wallace's audio-video production class.

A friend of Gonzales, Evelyn Hulsey, got in touch with Wallace, explained the situation, and asked if his class could help out.

Four students arrived at East Elementary School to set up the equipment. Others helped to choose music for the background.

The group worked until 2 a.m. putting the video together to get it to Gonzalez as quickly as possible. The tape was delivered to the hospital by 4 a.m. Thursday, the morning after the ceremony.

"We didn't know if she was going to make it through the night," Wallace said.

"When Maria saw the film, even with all the pain medication, she just kept saying, 'That's my girl,' " said Hulsey.

Jewelry store robbery nets nearly 10 years

ANCHORAGE - A 19-year-old man was sentenced Friday to nearly 10 years in federal prison for the armed robbery of an Anchorage jewelry store last fall.

Puipuia Alaelua was sentenced to 117 months in prison. He pleaded guilty to the crime in March, according to Joe Bottini of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Alaelua was prosecuted in federal court under a safe neighborhoods initiative, Bottini said.

The crime occurred Sept. 27, when Alaelua came into a store in Northway Mall and asked to see some jewelry. He then pulled out a pistol and demanded watches, bracelets and other jewelry. He left with more than $14,000 worth, and jumped into a waiting car.

Police stopped the car shortly afterwards and Alaelua jumped out and fled on foot. He was captured later.

In addition to the prison sentence, Alaelua was ordered to pay $11,820 in restitution.

Former commissioner to lead Anchorage United Way

ANCHORAGE - Michele Brown, former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, is the new president and chief executive officer of United Way of Anchorage.

The board of directors of the nonprofit organization hired Brown after a six-month national search to replace popular former President Dennis McMillian. He now heads the Foraker Group, which provides services for nonprofit groups.

"We were looking for a leader, for someone who had the ability to take this organization to the next level," United Way Chairman Victor Mollozzi said. "There's no question we found it in Michele."

Brown is taking the helm as United Way focuses more on health and social issues in Anchorage, such as school dropout rates, in addition to the massive fund-raising effort for its agencies.

Brown said her main priority is focusing on maintaining the agency's relationships and partnerships, "working with a lot of other groups to make sustained change in the community."

Brown also faces potential budget challenges as the governor's office considers cuts to balance the state budget.

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