Juneau woman dies in car crash on Tuesday

Car struck by dump truck at intersection, police still investigating

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A Juneau woman known for helping others died Tuesday afternoon from injuries sustained when her car collided with a dump truck in the Mendenhall Valley.

Paulette Alden, 49, known as Paula, was pronounced dead upon arrival at Bartlett Regional Hospital, police said.

Police said her 1991 Ford Escort was struck by a dump truck driven by a 38-year-old Juneau man at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of Mendenhall Loop Road and Stephen Richards Memorial Drive. The truck driver's name was not released.

The dump truck apparently is owned by a private company working on improvements to the bike path in the area, police said.

Police were still investigating the crash by late afternoon and hadn't cited anyone.

"At this point, I can't release anything else," police Sgt. David Wrightson said. "We're trying to evaluate all the evidence in the roadway."

Alden's family said she was well-known to hundreds of people in Juneau. She had lived here since moving from Idaho in 1988. Alden, who suffered from severe asthma, did not work, her family said. She had lived in the Mountain View Apartments for seniors and people with disabilities for the past two years.

She helped serve meals at the Juneau Senior Center, which is housed in the apartment building, delivered food for the center's meals on wheels program, and helped with the center's newsletter, said site manager Ellen Northup.

But those were just the most noticeable of her helpful ways.

With the Mountain View management's permission, Alden took in a mother and son until she could find them a home. If someone was hungry, she was at the food bank's doors at 8 a.m. to put together a food basket, Northup said.

"Paula was the kind of person that lived every day like the last day she was going to live, and she frequently landed in the hospital because of all she did," Northup said, referring to Alden's asthma.

"One time in the emergency room the doctors said 'We tell her to rest and she says 'No, I have to live my life,' " Northup said. The next day, after being released from Bartlett, Alden was helping a woman prepare for a wedding.

"It was someone who didn't have much. Her heart was bigger than her body," Northup said.

Two ambulances and a fire engine from Capital City Fire and Rescue responded to the accident scene Tuesday afternoon, said Capt. Jerry Godkin. Medics were able to open the passenger-side doors and treat Alden in the car, while rescue crew removed the driver's side door with the Jaws of Life. Alden was extricated within five minutes, Godkin said.

Alden is survived by two grown daughters, eight grandchildren and numerous siblings, her family said.

Cynthia Ferguson, 29, who lives in Juneau, said her mother "would go the distance for anyone."

"Everybody knew her," Ferguson added. "She would make it a point to introduce herself to people. If somebody needed help, she would help them."

"She's helped hundreds of people, regardless if they needed a place to stay or something to eat," said daughter Rachael Alden, 27, who lives in Anchorage.

"You couldn't keep that woman down even if she was sick," longtime friend John Salyers said. "She was calling us from the hospital (one time) asking us if there was anything we wanted."

Alden was an avid fisherman, a skilled carpenter, and somehow she knew how to repair a computer, friends said. She wasn't a quiet person. She was quick-witted. She swore. She wore funny T-shirts.

"She was not a girlie girl," friend Renee Salyers said. "She loved to do carpentry. She loved the outdoors. She loved fishing."

Northup said she is organizing a fund to help pay for Alden's funeral. She will accept checks at the Juneau Senior Center, on 12th Street, made out to Cynthia Ferguson. For more information, call 463-6175.

"I'm so sad she's gone, and so happy I knew her," Northup said.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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