Glory Hole remembers the dead

Posted: Sunday, December 19, 2004

One by one, candles were lit at the Glory Hole on Saturday as the names were read of homeless people who have died in recent years in Juneau.

Eventually, the table, decorated with a lace cloth and flowers, was full of lit candles.

The ceremony at the Glory Hole, the downtown homeless shelter and dining hall, was part of National Homeless Person's Memorial Day. It's held near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

"The winter poses extreme hardship for inadequately housed low-income men, women and children all over the country, but especially in places like Juneau, where the weather itself can bring an untimely death," Jetta Whittaker, executive director of the Glory Hole, told the 40 or so assembled people.

Valerie Fawcett, 38, attended the ceremony to remember her sister, Diane Fawcett, who died in April at the age of 41. She left behind four children, who live with their father, Valerie Fawcett said in an interview.

Diane Fawcett lived in a van with her boyfriend and took meals at the Glory Hole, said Valerie Fawcett, who stays at a city campground near Thane Road. Diane Fawcett died of alcohol poisoning, Valerie Fawcett said.

At Saturday's memorial, Valerie Fawcett held up a yellow paper heart to represent Diane Fawcett's "heart of gold" and read a letter to her sister.

"I think about you all the time," Valerie Fawcett said. "I know when the sun is out you are the sun that shines on my shoulder."

Valerie Fawcett promised to be available to Diane Fawcett's children for comfort.

During the ceremony, Glory Hole board member JoAnn Schoeppe read the names of 24 homeless people who have died over a period of years. Members of the audience called out other names, nine in all.

The deaths were preventable, Whittaker said.

"If we have improvements in affordable housing, living wages, accessible health care and substance-abuse treatment, we won't need memorial services for people who died without housing," she said.

"Each candle burning bright reminds us of a special person, a life that lit up the lives of many," said Larry Rorem, pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church and the Glory Hole board president, in a closing prayer. "We give thanks for the lives of those whose candles are lit today."

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