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Walmer, John and Mary (McFarland)

by Angie Long, neighbor and friend

We first met John and Mary Walmer in 1959. They lived across from us at 521 12th Street in the little yellow house between Jack and Jeanette Gould and Katherine Shaw. John worked as Clerk of the Court. Although Mary had a built-up shoe and walked with a cane, she was an avid gardener, had beautiful flowers, vegetables, raspberries and cherry trees. They had a canary and kept the house neat and comfortable. We enjoyed hearing about their past lives.

Mary McFarland Walmer was born on March 30, 1887, raised in Sitka and worked in the store for the Kostemitnoffs. She had to wash all the money and coins every night because TB was so prevalent. She spent a few years in Albany, Oregon, working for a family, and getting treatment and rehabilitation for her lame leg. When she came back to Sitka, she worked as a waitress at the Pioneers Home. John was the cook and she said, “He looked like the little man on Campbell’s Soup cans” and she fell in love with him. They lived in Sitka a number of years and had a restaurant called The Arcade. When they moved to Juneau, they had the U & I Lunch Room on South Franklin. Later, she worked as a matron at the jail on Telephone Hill.

John had an interesting life. He was born March 17, 1887, and raised by an aunt in Boston, later worked at a circus, played in a band and went to Chicago to attend chef’s school. He heard about the gold strike in Skagway and made a hectic trip there. Later, he was in Port Chilkoot during World War I and was the Bugle Boy. After his time in Sitka, he cooked for the miners at Perseverance Mine in Silver Bow Basin. John continued to work for years in liquor stores after age 70. He said he liked to hear the cash register ring. They were active in the Elks, American Legion, VFW, Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star.

They sold their house and bought a condo at Highland Terrace. They had to learn to cook on an electric stove and never used their dishwasher. She worked on a flower garden spot by the outside stairs. We took them shopping each week at the 20th Century Market, since it was smaller and they could get around. Our son Brent was in high school and cleaned, changed the beds, washed windows, etc. on Saturdays. At Christmas, Mary made beautiful cookies of different kinds, and packaged them in lovely, decorated cans. She gave them to their friends and neighbors. They also gave us a box of red delicious apples.

With time, they found they weren’t able to take care of each other. John fell one night and Mary couldn’t lift him. She put a pillow under his head and covered him with blankets. Dr. Rude came and said they should go to the Pioneers Home in Sitka. We helped get them packed and ready to go. It was a sad day when we flew with them to Sitka. They had a hard time adjusting but seemed happy when we visited them. They had a big room together. After Mary passed away, John gave up even though he lived for several years longer. Mary died on April 24, 1977, and John on January 27, 1981. We went over for both funerals and they were buried in the National Cemetery in Sitka.

John and Mary Walmer.

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