Elisabeth S. Hakkinen


Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005

Former longtime Haines resident Elisabeth S. "Lib" Hakkinen died Oct. 2, 2005, at the home of her son, Fred Hakkinen, in Canby, Ore.

She was born Jan. 11, 1914, in Skagway, the first child of Elisabeth Birkinbine Sheldon and Steve Sheldon of Haines. She graduated in 1930 from Haines High School. She attended San Bernardino Junior College in Southern California and Western College in Oxford, Ohio. She received her bachelor's of arts in 1935 with majors in education, biology and English.

She returned to Haines and taught school from 1935 until 1940. She married Sgt. Felix "Whitey" Hakkinen of Chilkoot Barracks. They lived in California, Oregon, Sitka and Juneau, before returning to Haines in 1950 to teach again. She also assisted her husband in running the grocery store, which they purchased from her father upon the death of her mother.

She served on the Haines City Council and the School Board. She was active in the Haines Women's Club, the PTA, the Presbyterian Church as an organist, and the Girl Scouts.

When the Hakkinens sold their store in 1970, she worked to fulfill her father's dream of building a museum to house his collection. Through the efforts of the Haines Women's Club, and the organizing of the Chilkat Valley Historical Society, the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center was dedicated in 1979. She served as director and curator in a volunteer capacity from the museum's opening in 1979 until she and her husband moved to Oregon in 1995.

She wrote small books and pamphlets on the history of Haines and the Chilkat Valley, and a regular column "Musings from the Sheldon Museum" for the Chilkat Valley News in Haines. She started a local radio program on KHNS as a historical "Question of the Week." It is still being broadcast as the "Sheldon Museum Historical Talk."

She received numerous awards including Alaska's Mother of the Year in 1966; the Governor's Award from Gov. Jay Hammond in 1979; and the Evangeline Atwood Award from the Alaska Historical Society. She was the representative for Alaska on a National Committee for the Aging in Washington, D.C. in 1960 and was included in the Who's Who of American Women. She was adopted into the Eagle clan of the Tlingit nation.

A memorial service was Oct. 6 in Oregon. A Haines memorial will be Oct. 22. Donations in her name may be made to the Sheldon Museum, Box 269, Haines, 99827. Cards and condolences may be sent to Dr. Fred Hakkinen, 1026 N.W. Eighth Way, Canby, Ore., 97013.

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