Anita Harriet Duncan Wright, a longtime nurse at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital died July 26, 2016 at the age 80.
An Orthodox Panikida service was held 3 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the ANB Founders Hall. She will remain there until 2 p.m. Sunday, when services will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral. A cultural service will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at the ANB Founders Hall, followed by a reception. A graveside service was held 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, at Sitka National Cemetery.
She was born Feb. 10, 1936, in Excursion Inlet, the daughter of Peter and Emma Duncan. From birth until age 14, Anita knew only the most traditional life her family lived. They used wood stoves for heat, packed water from the river and lived by lamplight at night. She loved working on gardens and on fish, their main food source.
Among her talents was a beautiful singing voice, which she used to make money by performing at the local cannery. She had a strong work ethic and would use her motherly talents caring for her younger siblings while the parents worked. Her favorite saying was one her father often used: “We all work togedder, togedder togedder.”
When she was 14, Anita moved to nearby Hoonah to attend formal school. She finished fifth through eighth grades then moved to Sitka to enter nursing school with help from Alfred McKinley and Ann Poore. During this time she met Arthur Gamble, and they were married after she graduated from nursing school. She took an LPN position with the Public Health Service Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, which is now SEARHC, and worked there for 30 years. During her time at SEARHC, Anita was well-known by the many people she worked with as well as by her many patients. Among her patients were many suffering from tuberculosis contacted during the statewide epidemic, and it was a testament to her strength that she gladly accepted the risk, her family said.
Anita enjoyed working with patients so much that she preferred giving direct care over getting promoted to RN status. In addition to her nursing skills, she was fluent in Tlingit and helped her patients by interpreting between doctors and elderly patients.
Anita gave birth to eight children during the late 1950s and 1960s. Five are alive today and have fond memories of her as a loving and caring mother. As with others, she put their needs before hers, often sacrificing whatever she could to provide for them.
In her last years, she demonstrated happiness and love while battling dementia. Her caretaker son, Tom, asks for continued support for other caregivers in transition through direct support.
Anita married Frank Wright Sr. in December 1987 and considered all his children and family to be a major part of her life. Her children, grandchildren and her last three brothers meant the world to her, along with the family raised with her in Excursion Inlet.
Anita was Tlingit, Kiks.adi, from S’e hit. Her Sitka family history and lineage is also from L’uka hit, Point house, with direct ties to Sh’kawul Yeil, the leader of Sitka when the Russians arrived.
As clan mother for Kiks.adi, her knowledge of Tlingit families, language, culture, and leadership far exceeded any title. She was raised in a traditional camp living off the lands and resources, and she shared this extensive knowledge with her children and many others.
Her crafts and beadwork were of high quality and, with marriages to the Kaagwaantaan and Chookaneidi, she strengthened ties with many extended family members by making their regalia and at.oow.
Anita was a child of Daklaweidi, and a grandchild of Wooshkeetaan, and relations through traditional marriages are too numerous to list.
“Anita stood for love, for all. She would have given you her last bite of food; her kindness spills over and she left a legacy of knowledge of Tlingit haa kustyi, lit, the way we live in Tlingit,” her family said.
Survivors include brothers Albert (Pauline) Duncan and John Duncan Sr; sisters Jennifer (the late Thomas Sr) Young and Vivian (Russell) James; and her children Larry (Tammy) Gamble Sr.; Gerri (Jake) Castonguay, Dan (Paula) Gamble, Bob (Rose) Gamble, and Tom Gamble, and children from her second marriage, Frank Wright Jr, Debbie Picken, Sharon Brown, Sam Wright, Margaret Wright and Phyllis Snively.
Anita had 14 grandchildren from her first marriage and numerous other family members and extended family who loved her.
She was preceded in death by brothers Billy Duncan and Bobby Duncan; sister Irene Duncan; and children Art Gamble Jr., Arlene Gamble, Jacob Wright, Irma Button, Charlie Wright, Doris Wright and Martha Wright.
Pallbearers John Duncan Jr; Alex Rice-Johnson; Donovan Duncan, Henry Johnson; Albert Duncan and honorary pallbearers will be James “Big John” Nielson, Sam Martin, Nels Lawson Sr., Jake Castonguay; Kim Hanson; Albert Kookesh, Norman Kohler.
Condolences can be mailed to Gerri Castonguay, Box 2966, Kodiak, AK 99615.