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Popejoy, Charles L.

by Patsy Popejoy Nordmark

Charles Luther (Jack) Popejoy was born March 1, 1908, in Monte Vista, Colorado. His early schooling was in one room rural schools, and he graduated from Rio Grande High School in Monte Vista in 1928. He worked in the banking and grocery businesses and then the mining industry during 1934-1935. He married Lucille Kolander in 1932.

Alaska had always been an interesting place to him so during the depression years, Jack made the initial trip, landing in Juneau on February 12, 1934. He then went on to Anchorage where he remained for three months and worked as an accountant. After a trip back to Boise and Colorado, he and his wife landed in Juneau on February 12, 1936.

A fire that completely destroyed the small house in which they lived also burned all their possessions including money. Through the assistance of the Presbyterian Church, several good Alaskans and his brother-in-law William A. Kolander, they managed to get along. Jack and Lucille had a daughter, Lynne, born in Juneau, August 21, 1936. Jack and Lucille were divorced in 1939. Lucille later married James Arthur “Heavy” Johnson in Douglas in 1940. During WWII, he operated heavy equipment in the Aleutian Islands and on other construction projects in the Territory. He died in California in 1955, of a heart attack. Lucille remained in Palm Springs, California, and worked for a building and loan association until retirement.

Jack Popejoy worked for the A.J. Mining Company from 1936 to 1941, as hoistman, timekeeper, supply clerk, paymaster and employment agent. In 1941, he spent a short time with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and spent several years as a public accountant for retail stores and other businesses until he was appointed City Clerk on April 1, 1945, where he remained for twelve years. Late in 1957, he went to work for the Territory with the Department of Administration and then the State Department of Education until his retirement on March 31, 1973.

On December 21, 1941, Jack married Ruth Lillian McVay, a Juneau school teacher, at the Methodist Church. Ruth was born April 9, 1905, in Highmore, South Dakota and taught in South Dakota schools for thirteen years. She had traveled to Asia in 1936, and to the British Isles and Europe in 1939, before arriving in Juneau in 1939 to teach in the high school. Her family had been homesteaders in Dakota Territory, and her father was an educator for thirty years after South Dakota became a state.

As well as being a language and history teacher, Ruth Popejoy was an accomplished pianist. She played for concerts, for her church and choir and taught piano to a maximum of 55 pupils at one time. Their daughter, Patricia Eleanor was born August 11, 1943. Ruth retired from her piano instruction in 1973, when Jack retired but continued with her other musical activities. She also was elected to the School Board in 1943, and served for over eight years. One of the organizers in the 1940s, of the Alaska Music Trails concert circuit and active in many community organizations, she was selected by the Rotary Club in 1969 as Juneau’s Woman of the Year.

Jack was a hunter, fisherman, stamp collector and genealogist. He died in Juneau in 1992. Ruth then moved to Healy with daughter Patsy and she died in Fairbanks, January 28, 1993. Both Jack and Ruth are buried in Monte Vista, Colorado, next to Jack’s mother and grandparents.


I was born in Juneau in 1943, and graduated from high school in 1961.

I have a few memories of the period from 1945 to 1948 when we lived in the basement apartment of the Jenne house on Seventh Street at the top of the Main Street stairs. Crystal Snow Jenne came from a “Days of ’98” pioneer family. Mrs. Jenne’s daughter, Corrine Kenway and her children, Virginia and David, lived with her. Their house was full of antiques, which did not get much respect from the three of us rampaging preschoolers. There was a room in the basement which was usually locked and in which we were forbidden to go. We were disappointed when we finally got into the room and found it was full of old letters, programs and pictures. Of course, none of us were old enough to read, and we didn’t know it was Mrs. Jenne’s treasure trove of her life history. The subsequent spankings were enough to keep us from further investigations.
During this World War II time period, we had civil defense drills when all the lights in town were blacked out, and we had to practice evacuating. When we were at home during an “air raid,” we left the house and went up Basin Road. I remember being quite small and running with my mother in the pitch dark just past the last house on Basin Road. I remember looking down into Gold Creek and being afraid that I would go over the edge. When we were in church, we evacuated to the open space under Calhoun Avenue.

We were still living in the Jenne house when my mother Ruth Popejoy, Corrine Kenway, and Carol Beery Davis worked to establish the concert circuit of the Alaska Music Trails. They worked in conjunction with impresario and concert pianist Maxim Shapiro, who was quite a character.

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