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Sperling Ely, Mary Cecile

by Harry, Mary, David & Bill Sperling


I had no idea that being born and raised in Alaska was such a unique background until I enrolled as a freshman at the U. of Minnesota in 1945. One would think I was from another planet; the Alaskan aura. In fact, my college address was changed to “Mary Alaska Sperling” to distinguish me from another girl who had the same name. I know beyond a doubt how lucky we were to have had Alaskan pioneer parents and to grow up in a community boasting 5,000 population. I always knew everyone in my school classes as did everyone else. Teachers were personal. We went from 8th grade across the road to high school. In my graduating class there were 26 students. In 1946, I enrolled at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and my roommate was Nadine Metcalfe.

I enrolled for my third year of college in Eugene, Oregon. It was there, in 1947, I saw my Mother for the last time. I quit school when Mother died in February and returned to Juneau. I had met Ernie that fall in Oregon and he flew up in August and we were married in Juneau in 1948. Zalmain and Charmaine Gross gave us a reception at their home; Minnie Field baked our wedding cake; Mother’s Stitch ‘n Bitch Club (known as the S&B Club) put on our wedding, gave me showers and took the place of my Mother. We returned to Juneau the following two summers to work.

We were married for 47 years and during that time I managed to finish college (just before the medical school years, 1951-1955) then internship, residency, private practice, and finally a three-year residency in psychiatry. The third year we had the good fortune to take in England. By this time we were a family of eight with four girls and two boys. The number four child turned out to be four and five, identical twins. We moved back to Chico, California, in 1969, where Ernie worked for the Butte Co. Mental Health until his retirement in 1985. He died in 1995 of cancer. I continue to live in Chico, 1031 Downing Ave., Zip: 95926. Three of the six kids live in Chico and three not that far away. I have 10 grandchildren and count my life as being joyous and full.

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