Sitka celebrates centennial anniversary
Doing the Most Good- Alaska
Army remains a vital part of the community.
by Jenni Ragland –
Sunday morning celebration at the Sitka Corps.
Friends, soldiers and officers recently gathered to celebrate The Salvation Army’s 100 years of service in Sitka, Alaska. Special guests included Major Dolores Rivitt, O.F., Majors C. Joe and Florence Murray and Captain Susan Nute, all of whom have previously served in Sitka.
Originally opened as part of the Canada-Pacific Division in 1906, the Army has been a vital part of the community ever since. Stationed there in the late 1940s, Captain Lillian Dietz is best remembered for a unique ministry: opening her home as a birthing center. In addition, the Army has provided practical service in times of disaster, including the 1966 Sitka fire, which destroyed a large portion of historic Sitka and again in 2006 when the community experienced mudslides and a fire at the Sitka Hotel.
The celebration weekend, coordinated by Lts. Rick and Denise DeGroot and the Sitka advisory board, included fun, fellowship and reflection. Following a delicious meal featuring Native foods and entertainment by the Tlingit Songsters, Rivitt took center stage at the welcome meeting to reflect on her days as a young lieutenant. Fresh from training school, Rivitt arrived via the S.S. Denali and began her lifelong love affair with Alaska and its people. Her genuine service in this small community has made a lasting impression, as nearly everywhere people were eager to greet her.
The Murrays helped to lead a lively singspiration time. As they ministered through music, they also shared memories, including one incident with Major (then Captain) Joe’s biology class. The class was at sea and encountered difficulties with their steering system. They eventually radioed the Coast Guard for assistance—but while awaiting help, they were able to fix the problem and headed back to port. When the Coast Guard arrived, Major Joe picked up the radio to let them know all was well. A puzzled response from the Coast Guard came back, “How did The Salvation Army beat us here?” Again the Army’s simple way of becoming part of the community was evidenced through the Murrays’ ministry and service.
The weekend culminated with the Sunday morning holiness meeting, led by Nute, who served in the community with her husband, Captain Michael Nute. The small chapel was filled to overflowing as old friends—some from as far as Ketchikan—joined with the soldiers and other attendees to reflect on precious memories and God’s faithfulness.