OBITUARY: Alice Ryser  (1934-2021)

Alice was just 2 years old when her mother Mollie and brother Ken arrived in Alaska from California. Alice first lived on Story Island, Alaska, where her grandfather was a fox farmer. Her family moved to Katella, Alaska, where her love for old and treasured things really started to shine. Katella was an old, deserted mining town with a very small community. She would scour the old buildings looking for old things. She would go up to the second floor of the hotel where the dance floor was. She said, “It was grand!” Alice moved to Cordova, Alaska, when she was 6. Though Alice attended school in Katella, she recalled when she first went to school in Cordova that she did not know anything. She said, “I didn’t even know my colors.” As a child, she spent every summer on Peak Island with Alice Clock and her family. Alice would get seasick on the way to the island, so her dad would put her in a sleeping bag and tie her to the hatch cover on the boat. She said, “Worked every time.” She loved Peak Island! She had stories to tell of her pet fox, pet crow and Spotty the rabbit that was eventually served for dinner, which none of the children would partake in. When Alice was 11 years old, she recalled arriving in Anchorage the day WW2 was over. She said people were dancing in the street. 

Alice’s young adult years in Cordova were not easy. By the time she was 23, she had three little kids to raise on her own. And raise them she did! In 1957, she was invited to church. She said a young lady was praying with her and she asked, “What do I have to do to be saved?” The lady said, “You have to quit drinking, you have to quit smoking and you can’t wear makeup!” Alice said she thought about that and said, “Well, maybe not tonight.” About a week later, she went back to talk to the minister who with loving-kindness introduced her to her Jesus. Alice never wavered in her trust and love for her Lord. Alice loved that little church with Mart and Sister Rude.

Her first visit to Kodiak was while visiting her mother during the King Crab Festival in March of 1963. During her stay, she received news that her home in Cordova was lost in a fire. She then chose to make Kodiak her new home. The next year, she endured the 1964 earthquake and tidal wave. Alice was quoted saying, "Then the ground started to open up behind me and I thought GOOD GRIEF!”

Alice continued her life in Kodiak, marrying and having three more children. Though she was a busy mom, she made most of her children’s clothes. Her children knew they were loved. 

Alice loved to sew, crochet, knit, take pictures, decorate cakes and paint. She loved to play games and was a competitive player challenging all her Words With Friends opponents. She also spent many hours out the road viewing and photographing Kodiak brown bears. She especially loved family picnics out the road, birthdays, holidays and just being able to be with her family and friends laughing together. Her giggle was contagious.

Before Alice started working at the Baranov Museum, she worked at New England Fish Co., Kodiak King Crab, Naughton’s Bakery and Teresa’s Clothing Store.

Alice worked at the Baranov Museum as their archivist from 1978 to 2013. She said she never considered going to work a job because she loved what she did. Alice was also a member of the Alutiiq Museum’s Collections Advisory Committee since its inception in 1999. In 2017, Alice was named the Alutiiq Museum’s Volunteer of the Year.

Alice’s whole life revolved around church and serving the Lord. She was a stalwart member of the Assembly of God Church (now Oceans United) and never missed a church service unless she was physically unable. Her church family was very important to her. When asked to identify the best day of her life, Alice replied that it was when she accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior.

Alice was dear to many and influenced more lives than we will know. We will miss her spunk, her wit, her knowledge, her humor, her laughter and her love. 

Alice was preceded in death by her mother Mollie Balas, father Edwin Liljegren, son Mark Ryser and granddaughter Maya Rey.

She is survived by children Teresa Stutes of Kodiak; Larry Ryser of Bellingham, Washington; Wenona Suydam and husband Kevin of Kodiak; Rick Ryser and wife Lori of Kodiak;  Mishelle Rey of Rocklin, California; brother Kenneth Selfridge and wife Gerry of Edmonds, Washington: sister Eva Liljegren of Longview, Washington; grandchildren Audrea Stutes of Homer, Matthew Stutes of Kenai, Naomi Emmert, and husband Ryan of Kodiak; Heidi Kreske and husband Jon of Hammond, Oregon; Tiffany Suydam of Bothell, Washington; Kristy Green and husband Mark of Renton, Washington; Dwayne Suydam and wife Stacy of Wenatchee, Washington; Kevin Suydam Jr. and wife Allie of Roseville, California; Jeffrey Ryser and Dane Ryser of Kodiak; Alicia Rey and Wiley Rey of Rocklin, California; and numerous great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations, in Alice’s memory, be made to the Kodiak Historical Society or Ocean’s United Church.  

Please join us for a Celebration of Life service for Alice Ryser, which will be held on Thursday, May 13, at 4 p.m. at Oceans United Church, Pastor Shannon Panthin officiating. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. following a private burial service. FB livstream: Oceans United-Kodiak.

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