Parade grand marshals paved the way

Egan and Williams helped to shape state government, economy

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2006

When Neva Egan moved to Valdez from Wyoming in 1937, she never imagined a one-year teaching assignment would lead to a lifetime of dedication to Alaska.

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The wife of the state's first governor, William Egan, the 91-year-old former first lady has a perspective on Alaska few possess.

"It was so thrilling to be able to participate in and help to build a new state," Egan said. "How many people are fortunate enough to do that? It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

For her unique contribution to Alaska, Egan has been selected as the 2006 grand marshal of the Douglas Fourth of July parade. Longtime residents Dean and Edna Williams were chosen as the 2006 grand marshals for the Juneau Fourth of July parade for their deep and diverse contributions to the community.

Egan said she has many fond memories of Independence Day from her years at the Governor's Mansion.

"The Fourth of July is always very special in Juneau and Douglas," she said. "When we lived down in Juneau years ago, we always enjoyed the way people celebrated it down here, so it is an honor to participate in it."

Now residing in Douglas to remain close to her family, Egan said she is happy to have lived in Alaska for so many years after initially only intending to stay a year.

"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," she said. "It's been a wonderful life to see the territory become a state. I've seen a lot of history up here."

Parade Times

Juneau: 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Douglas: 2 p.m. Tuesday

Although not actively participating in state or local government, Neva Egan continues to follow Alaska's political climate.

"You bet I keep up on politics," she said. "I don't express my views publicly, but I sure do privately."

Her son, former Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan, said being selected as the grand marshal is a tremendous tribute.

"It's just a real honor for her to be the grand marshal and she is really excited," he said.

Dean and Edna Williams, 88 and 85 respectively, also said they are honored to be parade grand marshals this year.

"We are very pleased that we are going to do that and we will do our best," Edna Williams said.

The Williams have lived in Juneau most of their life, both being relocated from the Lower 48 by their parents as young children.

"It wasn't our decision to come to Alaska, but we've enjoyed every minute of it and have never left," Edna Williams said.

The Williams have created a legacy of community involvement. After working for the Alaska Game Commission for a number of years prior to the incorporation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Edna Williams worked for the Juneau Chamber of Commerce for 20 years. She later moved on to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, for which she still volunteers.

"That's been a good part of my life, is the tourism part of Juneau," she said.

Dean Williams worked in the aviation industry before starting his own airline, Southeast Skyways, with Bill Bernhardt. The company has since become Wings of Alaska.

"We started doing the big flying over the Juneau Icefield, and now it is known as one of the biggest tourist attractions," he said.

Dean Williams has worked as a logger, a commercial fisherman and a big game guide. He also helped create the first ski patrol in Juneau, as well as the first mountain rescue team.

"I consider myself pretty much an Alaskan with that kind of Alaskan background," Williams said.

He also is known for his skills on the tennis court and is still playing strong at 88 years old.

"I've played tennis in 14 different countries and eight different states," he said.

Egan said she hopes people will enjoy the Fourth of July celebrations.

"I think the parade will give everyone a message and they'll interpret it in their own way," she said.

Williams said he hopes that Independence Day will bring the community together for the day and help its citizens put aside personal and political differences.

"I'd like to see more unity with our people here," he said. "We're not accomplishing a lot of things because we're so divided. We've got to get together so we can solve some of these problems."



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