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Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Carrigan, Verna Hurley

by Bob Hurley

Verna Carrigan was born September 19, 1914, in Juneau, Alaska. She was the second of three children of parents, Robert Cornelius Hurley and Minnie Scott Hurley. In 1921, at the age of seven, Verna moved with her family to Anchorage where her father was employed by the Alaska Railroad. In 1925, she returned, with her mother and brothers, to Juneau. Her father stayed in Anchorage studying law, ultimately becoming an attorney, and practiced both there and in Juneau until an accident, followed by illness, led to his untimely death in 1936.

During these childhood years, hardships were looked upon as a common occurrence, and the strength and work ethics of her mother and grandmother held the family together with a bond that would endure through the years ahead, and formed the foundation of Verna’s character.

During her teenage years Verna worked at the Zynda Hotel (later became the Juneau Hotel) and the Baranof Hotel, filling various positions from desk clerk to head switchboard operator. Soon, it was apparent that her real position in life was to be at her family’s business, the Juneau and Douglas Telephone Company, which was started by her grandfather, Edward Webster, in 1893. As the years progressed, each of the siblings took on more of the duties of the company, each finding their own niche, groomed and supervised by mother, Minnie, and Grandma Webster. Verna’s place was at the switchboard, connecting calls manually by cord and plug. It was a key position in the system, and during times of storms or a major fire, the operators were the hinge of all communications. They held their posts at all costs, making sure the calls got through, disregarding meals or personal matters. In time, she was the Chief Operator and Company Vice-President. In addition, she alone was responsible for production of the new directory every year.

When Verna married Roy Carrigan, there was no doubt what his future would be. Roy soon became a familiar face with the company as a telephone man, installing phones by day and repairing storm damaged lines by night. That was an occupation and a bond that they shared for nearly forty years until the family business was sold.

Timothy, the family German Shepard, could be found riding in Roy’s company truck by day and being guardian and companion to Verna and Roy at all times. I’m confident there was no place in the world where Verna wouldn’t have been safe as long as her dog, “Timmy,” was there.

Verna took pleasure from the earth by helping Mother Nature in the garden. Her home was always a colorful feast for the eye from early spring until late fall. She helped others with her green thumb, quick with advice for those in question, and quick with a hand for those no longer capable.

She learned to cook at her mother’s side, and she learned her lessons well. Verna specialized in difficult candies, and her confections were always a great treat at the many family gatherings.

Retirement brought a lot more free time to Verna; she spent that time focusing on arts and humanities, the things she valued most. She spent time with her close friends, gardening, working with the Catholic Church, and helping her husband, Roy, who by now was nearing the end of his time here with us.

It was but a few short years after Roy’s passing that Verna received her calling and left here quietly in the early morning hours of July 24, 1992. She left this world in peace and in comfort, knowing that for years to come, people would know her and enjoy her without ever meeting her. To accomplish this she left nearly all her assets to charities and organizations that she believed in. The organizations included:
l. University of Alaska Foundation – Juneau Campus - half to the library, half to scholarships
2. Juneau Symphony, Inc.
3. Hospice and Homecare of Juneau
4. Juneau Public Library Foundation
5. Gastineau Humane Society
6. Bartlett Memorial Hospital
7. Diocese of Juneau - for the Shrine of St. Therese
8. Pacific Legal Foundation (non-profit organization)