The following is written by our sister, Irene Jean Lampe (Photographs taken by Clarissa unless otherwise noted):
Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe was born June 25, 1925, in Port Althorp, Alaska. She died July 4, 2011, at age 86. Her Tlingit names were Latseenk’i Tlaa, Naax Seex Tlaa, and Xaays’ Neech. She was Raven Takdeintaan from Kaa Shaayi Hit and Tax’ Hit of Hoonah, Alaska, and Kaagwaantaan yadi and Kaagwaantaan dachxan.
Irene’s mother was Mary Wilson Brown Sarabia whose Tlingit name was Lxeis’. Mary’s first husband was Paul Brown, a Kaagwaantaan and song composer. Irene’s maternal grandmother was Jennie Edna White Wilson McClancey whose first husband was Bill Wilson, Kaagwaantaan, and second husband, Peter McClancey. Her maternal great-grandmother was Mary Phillips.
Irene’s father Juan Sarabia was a member of the Visayan tribe from Aklan province of the Philippines (PI), northwest portion of the Panay Islands in the Western Visayas Islands. Juan left PI and signed up with the U.S. Army in Hawaii in 1918. He traveled up the Pacific Coast to Alaska where he jumped ship with another soldier for a short time period. He was adopted into the Kaagwaantaan by Harry Marvin and given the name Deixyaanteen.
Irene’s husband William Boyd “Bill” Lampe was Bikolano from the southeastern peninsula of Luzon Island, the island where Manila is located. He was adopted into the Kaagwaantaan by Willis Peters and given the name Chaalk’ Tlein (Big Eagle). Irene affectionately nicknamed him “Lano” and in recent years, “Dudley.” Bill gave Irene the nickname “Bip.”
Bill saw Irene for the first time when she traveled to Seattle on the Princeton Hall sometime during the school year of 1947-48. She was a member of the Sheldon Jackson high school choir and they traveled for 3 weeks to perform in Seattle. Bill loudly said to her, “I’m going to marry you one day!” Later he met Irene again while working at Excursion Inlet cannery. Bill and Irene married on August 20, 1955.
Irene grew up in Hoonah and Excursion Inlet. In 1935, she was enrolled in 1st grade at age 10 because her mother witnessed the negative effects of a western education system towards her older daughters. Her mother tried to shield her from the harsh treatment received by her older sisters. Irene barely knew any English at the time and was punished by school authorities for speaking the Tlingit language. She quickly learned the English language and continued to study it into the 1960s.
She enjoyed playing sports and was a member of the Hoonah Braves volleyball and basketball teams. During the summer months, she lived in Excursion Inlet and went to fish camps in Glacier Bay, Dundas Bay and Icy Strait to preserve food for winter. She fondly remembered gathering seagull eggs at Marble Island in Glacier Bay.
In 1941, Irene and her parents spent a year in Juneau. They rented a house at the bottom of Carrol Way and South Franklin Street. Irene had to walk to a bus stop where Fireweed Place is currently located to catch the bus across the Douglas Bridge to attend the government elementary school in Douglas, now the Douglas Montessori School.
In 1948 she was the valedictorian of her graduation class at Sheldon Jackson High School. She sang in the high school choir. She graduated with her close friend Katherine Wanamaker Goade. Just after graduation, Irene had enough money to travel to Seattle with some classmates. She wanted to attend Griffin Business College but her mother begged her to come home after being away from home for four years. Irene cashed in her ticket and returned to Hoonah.
Besides babysitting for relatives and employed as a cannery worker for Excursion Inlet Packing Co., Irene’s first job after high school was as a waitress at the Alaskan Lunch Box, now the Alaskan Bar. She was also a housekeeper at the government BIA hospital near the present location of Federal Building and at St. Ann’s Hospital.
In the 1960s while working a full time job during the day, she attended Juneau Community College in the evening for about 5 winters where she enrolled in bookkeeping, shorthand, dictation, transcription, English, and typing classes. She was one of a handful of Tlingit women who were hired by the State of Alaska. She worked approximately 16 years for the State as a file clerk with Fish & Game, a clerk with Health & Social Services, promoted to an accounting clerk with Labor, and transferred to another accounting clerk position with Revenue Treasury Division. She quit State employment to work for Tlingit Haida Central Council for approximately 15 years. When she began work for T&H, there were only 2 employees – her and Ray Paddock, the president. She always said he was the nicest man anyone could work for.
Irene attended the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Hoonah and Juneau following her ancestors. She believed in the Church because the Tlingit language was used in the services. She knew all the songs in Tlingit. A parish group photo was taken at the church on May 4, 1929 when she was 4 years old. She wore a hat in the photo and continued to wear hats throughout her life.
Irene’s belief in the afterlife was heightened when she had a near death out of body experience in the late 1950s. She lay unconscious in a hospital room and recalled looking down at herself from above. When she woke up, she asked the attending nurse if there was a piece of crushed paper in the trash can next to her bed. The nurse said, “why yes, they haven’t cleaned the room yet.” Irene said the nurse then looked perplexed and asked, “how could you know?”
Irene was a fluent speaker of the Tlingit language. She enjoyed conversing in Tlingit with other speakers and young people just beginning to learn. She especially like to listen to elders such as Andrew Johnnie and Clarence Jackson for their excellent speaking skills and storytelling. She would literally gasp with excitement at their speaking ability.
Irene learned the art of bead work from her mother. Her first lesson was to thread all needles for her mother who was an excellent bead worker. She beaded many moccasin tops for her mother which helped to provide a source of income for her mother and family. Irene spent many hours every day devoted to bead work especially during her retirement years. She made several Takdeintaan beaded crests and octopus bags and handed them out to family members. When she was no longer able to thread needles, granddaughter Lily thread the needles for her.
Irene loved Tlingit dancing and singing. She was a member of Yun Shuka dance group in the 1980s and danced with the Mt. Fairweather group on several occasions. She participated in every Celebration since the very first one in 1982 and except 2010. She was always excited about the Grand Entrance parade.
Irene and Bill also loved to dress up in their finest to go out dancing at the Dreamland, Occidental Bar, and the Baranof Latchstring. They celebrated all the holidays by going out to dance. They especially liked dressing up in costume on Halloween.
Irene crocheted many blankets and gave to family members. She also gave away stacks of them at each of her sister’s memorial potlatches. She taught Bill to crotchet when he had a heart attack and stayed home more often in the evenings instead of going to bingo. He was so proud of his work.
Irene liked to walk and pick berries with her best friend Lillian Austin. Irene would walk from her house in Lemon Creek to Lillian’s house in Switzer Creek and together they would walk to Fred Meyer and back. They often picked berries at North Douglas. On several occasions they saw black bears walk right by them. Irene would be afraid to say anything to Lillian but when the bear departed, Irene would quietly say to Lillian, “Let’s go now” so as not to scare her.
Irene and Bill loved to travel to Hawaii, and to visit relatives and friends in Washington. Almost every other year, Bill got the driving bug. They drove to Anchorage to visit her niece and her husband Edna and Sam Lamebull, and to visit her brother Robert Sarabia in Seward. Irene’s sisters Katherine Mills and Sue Belarde joined Irene and Bill on a couple of road trips north.
Irene was well known for her sense of humor, she liked to make people laugh! Often she would say or do something so hilarious in public that Bill would feel embarrassed and walk away from her. She collected and distributed photocopies of jokes and cartoons to friends and co-workers that would be considered “harassment” by today’s standards. Many former co-workers, especially at T&H, said they enjoyed working with her because of her sense of humor.
Irene loved going to the movies to see comedies and scary movies. She was always laughed the loudest in a theatre. She loved to watch scary movies with Bill every Friday night. The more gruesome the movie, the better.
In her youth, Irene was always ready to participate in pie and watermelon eating contests. She said once her entire face was covered with blueberries. It’s no wonder she had a healthy appetite for such a little lady in her later years.
Irene was close to her brother Edward Sarabia, Sr. Photos of their youth indicate a sense of humor and as they got older, there was always laughter between them.
Irene lived up to her name Latseenk’i Tlaa (meaning strong little mother) in mind/body/spirit. In the face of adversity, discrimination, hardships, she overcame obstacles to provide a better life for her family all along maintaining that sense of humor and laughter. Irene sometimes made up her own words and instead of goodbye, she said “Boombie” which were her last words to her children. She will forever live on in the hearts of all those who knew and loved her.
Irene was preceded in death by her husband; parents; son Robert Allen Lampe, brothers, Edward T. Sarabia, Sr. and Robert “Bobby” Sarabia; sisters and their spouses, Katherine and Gilbert Mills, and Sue and Eladio Belarde; nephews, Gilbert “Butch” Mills and Patrick Mills; nieces, Barbara Sarabia Casey and Phyllis Mills Bean; aunts, Susie Wilson Davis and Kitty Lawrence; uncles, Mike Wilson, Alex “Shorty” Wilson, and Frank Wilson; extended family members, Sophie Davis Hanke, Leonard Davis, Fred Hanke, Jr., Joe Moses, Mary Lawson Jones, Gertrude L. White, and Moses Alex John. She was also preceded by three cats, Midnight, Kiki, and Kobe.
She is survived by her children, Richard Lampe, Clarissa Rizal, Tim Lampe, Irene Jean Lampe, Deanna Lampe; grandchildren, Amber and Brooke Lampe, Kahlil Hudson, Lily Hope, Ursala Hudson; great-grandchildren, Elizabeth Hope, Violet Hudson, and Amelie Haas; daughter-in-law Sarah Lampe; sister-in-law Helen Sarabia and family; Takdeintaan Mills and Belarde families; extended families of the Takdeintaan Head House; many friends, and her husband’s cat Bingo.
Thomas Mills, Jr.
Alfred McKinley, Sr.
Edwin Mercer, Jr.
Guy Benningfield, Sr.
Lillian “Ginger” Collier
Memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 12 at Tlingit and Haida Community Building, 3625 Hospital Drive in Juneau. Cards may be sent to Deanna Lampe, 350 Irwin St. #411, Juneau, AK 99801.
Thank you to all who helped make the memorial possible. Thank you to Donald Gregroy, our Chief Chef. Thank you to Tony Tengs of The Chilkat Cone for his donation of Chilkat cones for the memorial reception dessert. Thank you to several of my lifelong friends who helped serve the food, including: Charito Reid, Margaret Ramos Ashe, Lis Saya, Kelly Burnett, and Rhonda Mann.
Gunalcheesh, ho ho!
I have posted a previous blog entry last week “An Eternal Friendship With My Mamma” with more photographs and memoirs in honor of our mother, Irene Loling Sarabia Lampe.