Ketchikan’s annual Chamber awards banquet is about honoring individuals, but it also is a celebration of the community as a whole. Each of the honorees expressed appreciation of this place and the people in it.
The awards segment of the evening kicked off with Outstanding Youth Leaders, Rick and Pat Shaner. Both Shaners are retired teachers who founded numerous church-based youth groups and substitute-teach in local schools. A crowd of young people emerged with flowers for the couple when their names were announced for the award.
Here is Pat Shaner, thanking the Chamber for the honor.
“We feel blessed beyond anything you can imagine,” she said. “Our kids keep saying, ‘Why don’t you move down here with us?’ We say we have kids in Alaska that need us.”
Next, Chamber Business Manager Chelsea Goucher announced the Outstanding Community Event, the annual Shellfish Festival. The sponsoring organizations are the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association, Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association and OceansAlaska, and the event has been extremely popular for each of the four years it has been held.
“Just try to get a ticket at the last minute, or even a week before,” Goucher said. “It’s nearly impossible. The attraction is buckets upon buckets of southern Southeast Alaska’s best in shellfish delicacies, prepared by its premier chefs and cooks. Alaska produced oysters, spot prawns, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers, scallops; all of this is featured as part of the feast at the festival.”
Outgoing Chamber President Judy Zenge then announced the President’s Award, which went this year to Doug Ward. She praised Ward for his community advocacy, and his involvement in the Chamber over the years. Ward gave a characteristically entertaining acceptance speech.
“When I first got here, I remember the stench of the seaweed at low tide and the rotting logs and the dying fish on the beach, and it brought tears to my eyes then, too,” he said. “It didn’t take too many years that I started noticing a subtle difference, in when I got off that plane, I began to enjoy that smell.”
Nancy Christian presented the Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Alma and Dennis Parker,
who own StudioMax fitness and dance studio. Christian said it was the couple’s dream to own the business, but Dennis Parker offered a clarification.
“Real quick, I’m gonna clear something up here. It was not my dream,” he said. “I have come to Ketchikan, I get that smell, I have not yet learned to love it. The community of Ketchikan, the people of Ketchikan, I love.”
The Business of the Year award went to Parnassus Books, and former owner Maggie
Freitag. She worked many years at Parnassus before buying it in 2004 from founder and longtime owner Ms. Lillian Ference, and Freitag recently sold the bookstore to former librarian Charlotte Glover.
“If you don’t recognize me, I’m the retired Maggie Freitag,” she said. “I felt honored to be part of Lillian’s business, I felt honored to take the helm of Parnassus and I know Charlotte is going to do a great job carrying on the tradition of Lillian.”
The evening ended with the Citizens of the Year: Tom and Mary Schulz.
Tom Schulz, a retired judge, volunteers much of his time to local organizations, including the District 36 Democrats, Ketchikan Community Foundation, Ketchikan Yacht Club and Women in Safe Homes.
Mary Schulz is a former teacher who has been honored in the past for her teaching activities, was among the WISH Women of Distinction honorees two years ago, and helped found First City Homeless Services. She also is devoted to promoting swimming safety, and started the local Masters Swim Program for adults in Ketchikan.
Penny Pedersen, announcing the award, noted that Tom Schulz moved here from Juneau first, and Mary followed later with the kids, a lot of animals and a pickup truck with a busted rear window. Mary explained that it was damaged when her son drove the snowmachine into the truck bed.
“Actually it wasn’t Bryan’s fault,” she said. “We had to get the snowmobile to Ketchikan – we didn’t realize there wasn’t any snow here. So I said we can get it in the back of the truck. I told Bryan you run it around and I’ll back up into the snowbank and you can drive onto the truck. So, he knows he’s going to have to gun it to get it on the truck. In the meantime I think if I put this plywood over the snowbank, then he wouldn’t have to jump the little gulf there. But I didn’t tell him. So he gunned it, he shot through the air, landed in the back window and — what can you say?”
In a brief and emotional acceptance speech, Tom Schulz summed up the general theme of the evening.
“I came down here from Juneau in ’73, and all I wanted to be was a trial judge,” he said. “I found a great community. Thank you so much.”