Parks and Recreation Image

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Werner, Joseph R. and Jennie (Berg)

by Henry and Anita Wilde

Joe Werner was a prominent Juneau accountant with his office at the Goldstein Building behind Charlie Goldstein’s room. He was very active in civic affairs, helped start the “Million Dollar Golf Course” on the old mine tailings and the Ski Bowl on Douglas.

He was born in Gleed, Washington, near Yakima in 1909. His ancestors were immigrants from Sweden who first settled in Minnesota and later moved to the Yakima Valley where they farmed apples. He worked as a volunteer in the CCC camps during the Depression and attended Yakima College. He first came to Alaska in 1937, as an accountant for the U.S. Forest Service. He started his own accounting firm after WW II, first in the Valentine and later Goldstein Building, which he also managed for many years. Joe was a member of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, the Elks Lodge and Moose Club for which he was the 3rd baseman on their baseball team for many years. He was a volunteer fireman and had quite a reputation as an amateur photographer as well.

Joe married Jennie (Berg) Werner in 1938, at Juneau’s Northern Light Presbyterian Church. They had known each other since his CCC camp years in Washington. Joe, a heavy pipe smoker, died in Juneau of throat cancer in 1972, at the age of 63 years.

Jennie (Berg) Werner, prominent Juneau artist and community activist, was born at Eufaula, Washington, in 1910. Her parents came from Norway and settled in Eastern Washington. Her father was Hans Berg, son of Gulbran Edmunsen Berg and Elen his wife. Jennie attended Western Washington State College in Bellingham, graduating as a teacher in 1932. She taught school in Carnation, Washington, and Edmonds until 1938, when she moved to Juneau and married her sweetheart Joe. Their only child, Karen, was born at Seward in 1941, while Joe was still working for the Forest Service. Jennie had artistic talents since her teens. She started painting after some formal training in Kelso, Washington. Her art style was later influenced by several of her close friends, Grace Henning (her husband Bob worked for the Empire), Thelma Engstrom, Charlotte Nickelson, Rie Munoz, Grace Ramsey and Dale DeArmond. Each of these early Juneau artists kept in close contact, often attended workshops on the west coast and each later developed her own style. William (Bill) Winn, the Guru of 513 East Street (below Starr Hill) often hosted dinner parties for these artists and was their most vocal and outspoken advocate and critic. In later years, Jennie became quite modern and experimented with different art forms. She was then the only person in that group to dabble in jewelry design and even “junkmobiles.” She visited Henry and Anita Wilde when they were stationed at the American Embassy in Bangkok during the Viet Nam War and Jennie became somewhat influenced and very interested in Oriental art forms.

The Werner home was located at 845 Gold Belt in Juneau. Jennie died in 1998, at Seattle, where her daughter Karen, an art restorer, had settled. Karen died at Seattle on September 21, 2000.

Jennie’s grandmother, Jennie, Karen and Joe, circa 1949.