While the honored women couldn't come to their fundraiser at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall Monday night, family members said it was inspiring to see how many others did.
The dinner and auction were held to raise money for medical expenses for Liv Gray, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and Judy George, whose liver cancer was diagnosed within the last few weeks. Both women have been strong leaders in Tlingit-Haida Central Council and the Native community.
"I'm amazed at the number of people here," said Ethel Dybdahl, as the hall began to fill up. Gray is Dybdahl's sister-in-law .
The event was sponsored by the Tlingit-Haida Central Council and Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2.
Gray and George have done much for the community, said Ed Thomas, president of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council. George was first vice president and Gray was sixth vice president. Donations contributing to the $10-a-plate dinner reflect that, he said.
People gave halibut and salmon they have caught, which means a lot, he said before presiding over one of the auctions held to raise money at the dinner.
"It gives you an indication how people feel," he said.
George "is just an amazing woman," said Lisa Fisher, one of her nieces. "She's a very strong, very generous, very intelligent woman.
"It's very heartening to see all the effort that's gone into this," she said, looking around the room.
Dana Ruaro, who still works at Tlingit-Haida, described George as her mentor while Ruaro was serving as assistant to the president.
"She gave me a lot of guidance," Ruaro said.
But Ruaro said the support came at a personal level, too.
Judy and her husband, Cyril George, helped Ruaro with the adoption of a son.
"She was supportive in every sense of the word," Ruaro said. "She's sacrificed so much of her life. She puts aside personalities to make sure things are for the good of Tlingit-Haida."
Nathan McCowan said George, his great aunt, is a true leader who has done much for her family. "She always supported everything we did."
"When she comes into a room, she has a commanding presence," said Grady Fisher, Lisa's husband.
Gray wrote a letter to supporters at the fundraiser, saying her cancer is responding to treatment and is shrinking. She wrote she was looking forward to moving from the chemotherapy to radiation.
"I will start getting my hair back," Gray said.
When she was losing her hair, a sister and many nieces and nephews shaved their head to show her support, nephew Bradford Dybdahl said.
His mother, Ethel Dybdahl, said Gray has been responding well to the treatment. "She's very determined," she said.
Gray was mayor of Hoonah in the 1980s and continued to be a leader.
"She is very strong, very determined and very stubborn at times," Bradford Dybdahl said.
Ethel Dybdahl said she is always impressed with the way people come out to support friends who need in need, as they did Monday night.
In her letter, Gray wrote about how much the support means to her. "The power of prayer has been my strength, and I thank each and every one of you for your prayers and support. I am humbled by the beauty of people."
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