Her family ate meals in shifts, except at the big holidays, and one of the girls she took in said their Hoonah home was like "a bunkhouse" with the 15 children.
But Mildred Austin Jack said Saturday she wouldn't have it any other way.
"They're all my kids," she said, speaking with pride about her five children and the 10 children she took in after two sisters died. And she said she was overwhelmed to find the event she was attending at Twin Lakes was organized to thank her.
"I thought I was coming to a family reunion," she said.
During the picnic in the park, Carolyn Noe, one of the girls Jack took in, introduced her Yies Ku oo Native dance troop to perform in Jack's honor. From the group, Nancy Barnes read a proclamation from the Alaska State Legislature honoring Jack for her dedication in raising the family, teaching the children to be proud of who they were and their Native culture.
"I am so overwhelmed by your performance," Jack said, taking off her glasses to wipe her tears. "Thank you everybody."
"We get together in times of sorrow more times than we care to," her husband, Ernie Jack, said. "It's a pleasure to get together with no sorrow involved."
It was sorrow that brought the Jacks' large family together. In addition to their own five children, the Jacks took in the children of Florence and Andrew Jackson and Mina and Robert Carteeti after they died.
Millie Jack said she never gave it a second thought. She wanted them to stay together and wanted them to stay in Hoonah.
"Our house is like a revolving door," her husband said. "Kids are in and out all the time. We never say no."
The youngest, Julie Jackson, said she doesn't remember her natural parents, who died when she was 3. She said she always called Millie Jack her mother.
She remembers the home's being crowded. After a moment, she added, "loved."
"She was always there," Julie Jackson said.
He oldest sister was 13 when she came to live with the Jacks. She said her Aunt Millie "didn't hesitate to take us in. It was packed."
"There were so many of us, but we had different chores.
Carolyn Noe said it was a big change, and the only time they all ate together was at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We did everything together," Millie Jack said, although she recalled there were generally three shifts at the dining table. "I never thought it was too much.
"Their mothers had taught them well," she said.
The sense of family even extended to people she didn't raise.
"Millie is a very special person," said Gloria Sarabia, who was married to Millie's brother but continued to be treated as on of the family after her divorce.
Looking around the park with a young child in her lap, Millie Jack said she was very happy. "Each one of them, as they were leaving, it was hard on me."
She said she couldn't believe people did something so special for her.
"My sisters would have done the same thing," she said.
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