Elizabeth "Bessie" johnson Fred

IClarissa Hudson demonstrates Chilkat spinning techniques to children at the Smithsonian's NMAI Museum show of "Listening to Our Ancestors" Exhibit, November 2006Bessie Fred dances with Angoon Dancers at Celebration 2008, Juneau




February 11, 1927 - June 20, 2008

In July 2007, I went to Angoon to deliver a woven robe. Although I had no intentions of doing any Chilkat weaving, my friend Dan Johnson had made arrangements with the Angoon Senior Center to have me do a demonstration in Chilkat weaving. Along with about 8 other women, Bessie was one who stood out amongst them - she had a spunky, upbeat attitude with that distinct sense of humor of our elderly Tlingit women! - she was the main inspiration why I returned to Angoon a few weeks later to teach a 2-week introductory course in weaving. With Assistant Instructor, Shgen George, we had about 15 students - we had a blast!

Juneau resident Elizabeth "Bessie" Johnson Fred died June 20, 2008, in Mount Edgecumbe. She was 81.

Leegeeyax and Luxshaadoosti of the Kaagwaantaan Drum House, she was born Feb. 11, 1927, in Angoon, to Elizabeth (Williams) and William G. Johnson. She attended elementary school in Juneau, grade school in Douglas and Skagway and high school at Wrangell Institute. She was raised in Juneau with two sisters and three brothers after her father died in 1934.

On April 23, 1946, she was married by her uncle, the Rev. Samuel G. Johnson, to Matthew J. Fred Sr. in Angoon. Matthew and Elizabeth were parents to 12 children - seven daughters and five sons.

She was superintendent of the St. John the Baptist Sunday School for 10 years and a member of the St. John the Baptist choir and the Songsters Brigade.

She was an active member of the Angoon Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 7 and held offices of president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, financial secretary and camp counselor until her death. She also was a delegate to several Grand Camp Conventions.

She was vice chairwoman of school boards for Mount Edgecumbe and Wrangell (1971-1975), was on the Advisory Parent Board for Mount Edgecumbe (1971-1975) and was a liaison with students for the Wrangell Institute School Board.

She received training at Mount Edgecumbe school and went on to become an alcohol and drug counselor volunteer for 25 years.

She was chairwoman for the Angoon District state elections since 1975, and Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr. appointed her as a registration official. She also was appointed by Lt. Gov. Terry Miller as a registration official for the Angoon precinct and was appointed to the housing committee board for the Angoon Housing Improvement program.

She lobbied in Washington, D.C., with her husband and other elders on April and May 1979 and July 22,1980. She was very proud to have been one of the people to present to President Jimmy Carter with a beaded vest, her family said.

She was a member of the Xootzidaakwaan Dance group and a beading instructor at the Chatham School District.

Family members said she loved to sew blankets and bead traditional designs, pick berries and preserve jams and jellies, as well as smoke salmon.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Matthew Fred Sr.; daughters, Sally and Patricia Fred; and son, Calvin Fred.

She is survived by her children, Marlene Zuboff and Maxine Thompson, of Angoon, Margaret Ivory and Francis Klotze, of Anchorage, Lillian Fred, of Juneau, Matthew Fred Jr., Michael, Gilbert and Eugene Fred, of Angoon, and Marti Fred, of Anchorage; one brother, William G. Johnson, of Anchorage; and 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Honorary pall bearers are George Bennett, Herman Davis, Leonard Demmert Sr., Cyril George Sr., Garfield George, Dan Johnson Jr., Paul Marks, Ray Peck, Paul Willis and Alan Zuboff.



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