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Greenewald, Robert N. & Elsie (Williams)

by Marlene Greenewald Johnson

Marlene was born in Hoonah, Alaska. Her mother Elsie was born in Douglas in 1894, to Lucy Williams Johnstone Douglas and William Johnstone, who drowned when Elsie was a small child. She and her brother Harry Douglas were raised by their stepfather William Douglas. Elsie’s mother Lucy was the daughter of a Tlinget Clan Leader, Lott Williams.

Marlene’s father Robert N. Greenewald, Sr. was born in Germany in 1875. He immigrated to the United States as a young man and lived in New Jersey and Chicago before venturing to California with his brother in the search of gold and/or work. They hiked across the Mojave Desert to get to California and hopped on railroad trains to make it across the U.S. After working in California and Washington, they came to Alaska after the big gold strikes. He prospected from Juneau to Nome and then worked as a hard rock miner for several of the gold mines around Juneau and Douglas, including the Ready Bullion, Perseverance, Treadwell (was working there when the big flood happened) and the A-J Mine.

After meeting Elsie in Douglas, Robert followed her to Hoonah where they married in 1910, and raised their 14 children (10 girls and 4 boys). They truck farmed in the Spasski Valley, outside of Hoonah before moving into town where they had a store and restaurant that Elsie worked full time, until Hoonah burned down in 1944. Robert worked summers for Icy Straits Cannery as a watchman. For several years, Robert worked as a surveyor for the uncharted and unsurveyed lands around Icy and Chatham Straits.

After rebuilding their store in Hoonah in 1945, they operated the store until the early 1950’s, when they sold it to a daughter, Hilda See. They moved to Juneau so their daughters could go to Juneau High School, as there was not a high school in Hoonah at that time. Their daughters Freda Borchick, Pauline Hinchman, Marlene and the late Janet Robison all attended and graduated from Juneau High School.

Robert and Elsie moved to Skagit County in Washington State for several years but returned to Alaska and settled in Ketchikan, near their daughters Charlotte Underwood and Mabel Rollog until their deaths. They celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1960. Robert died in November of 1980 at the age of 104 years plus 11 months.

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