Alaska music matriarch dies after journey home

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 1997

July 13, 1997

Last modified at 10:59 a.m. on Sunday, July 13, 1997


HOMER - Ruth Kilcher Marriott, matriarch of a musical family that includes the pop star Jewel, died here Friday after returning to Alaska to be among her children. She was 77.

Marriott was a Swiss immigrant who brought music and poetry to a fabled homestead on Kachemak Bay.

With her eight children and her first husband, former state Sen. Yule Kilcher, she used to perform publicly in Alaska and on lecture tours in Europe.

The family musical tradition, together with Marriott's particular flair for ethereal verse and love of the natural world, have now become key elements in the success of her granddaughter, Jewel Kilcher, the 23-year-old pop celebrity generally known by her first name.

``Mom was the main musical force in the family,'' said Mairiis Kilcher, her eldest daughter. ``Singing was always a big unifying force, no matter what other conflicts went on. You can't be mad at each other when you have to harmonize.''

Marriott was 21 when she left Europe in 1941 to join Kilcher, a man she hardly knew. In a 1990 interview, she said she'd been propelled by her idealized vision of life on the land.

The family farm became well known, at first largely through the efforts of Kilcher, who made a film about the homesteading life and took it on lecture tours across the states and Europe. But it was a hard life. Marriott took refuge in music and writing.

She left Alaska and the homestead in 1970. She married Marriott, whom she'd met in Homer, and they traveled around the Lower 48 before settling in Tennessee. In later years, she self-published several volumes of poetry, mostly about Alaska.

She is survived by her husband, Rod; her former husband, Yule; their eight children, Mairiis, Wurtila, Fay, Atz, Sunrise, Otto, Stellavera and Catkin; 22 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Southeastern Newspaper Corp.

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