In 1985, I wrote a Mother’s Day article for the Kadiak Times, asking local residents what they appreciated most in their mothers. Julia Naughton honored her mother Christina Lukin for teaching her the importance of promptness, especially at meal time. She also taught her daughter how to cook and to be thoughtful of others.
Now that Julia has passed into the next life, her family and friends honor her for the qualities she demonstrated during her long sojourn on this earth. Julia was coming up on her 92nd birthday.
Julia’s nieces, Lydia Olsen and Jonetta Cratty, said that Aunt Julia was always a big part of their family. Their children and grandchildren took a big liking to their great aunt.
“She was an incredible cook,” Lydia said.
Jonetta loved Julia’s applie pies and cinnamon rolls, for which she was famous.
Julia had difficulties in life, but she handled them gracefully. She struggled through the loss of her husband George and their daughter Julie. During the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, Julia “did better than most of us,” Lydia said.
Julia loved to tell stories, attend gatherings and visit people.
“I loved hearing her sing and tell stories, especially as I got older,” Jonetta said.
One of the residents of Bay View Terrace where Julia lived referred to her as her “Little Sunshine.”
Julia grew up in the village of Afognak, a place where neighbors were truly neighbors. If newcomers came there to live, they soon blended in.
Afognak was a Sitka spruce haven on the edge of the water. It was a place where Julia’s brothers, sisters and parents, Afonie and Christina Lukin, crowded in a little house, illuminated by kerosine and gas lamps and warmed by wood stoves.
Julia enjoyed going to the big Afognak school because it had a light plant.
“The teachers lived upstairs in the school,” she said.
In her mid-teens, Julia worked for the teachers, washing dishes for a dime and cleaning their house for 75 cents.
There was always something to do in Afognak. Julia’s parents made sure that their children had chores and time for play as well.
“The fishing was very interesting,” Julia recalled.
In the middle of summer, Julia’s mother took the children down to the beach at night to go seining. Her father and the older boys were away from the village, commercial fishing.
Her mother would “make a haul right on the beach,” Julia said. “We pulled in the net by hand. All of us kids helped. We’d go home, pretty wet.”
Julia’s mother also took the kids to Litnik for picnics.
It wasn’t all peace and tranquility in Afognak. During the early years of World War II, the villagers prepared for a possible attack by the Japanese.
“I remember my mother getting ready for my (13th) birthday party,” Julia recalled.
“A plane flew over and dropped all these leaflets (alerting people of blackouts). We went to the Sheratines. They had a big barn and lots of people were up there. We went to sleep and my sister and I woke up in the morning, and we were all alone. Everybody had left.”
Julia grew up in the Orthodox Church, attending services that were primarily in Russian.
“We didn’t understand them,” she said.
The Orthodox priest, Father Gerassium Schmaltz, came to Afognak from Kiev, Russia. He made a lasting impression on his parishioners — children included. Julia recalled that he told children to be kind to the animals of Afognak.
Protestant missionaries came to the village and their services were in English. Barbara Crozier, one of the missionaries, was also a nurse. Julia was sent to her after she broke her wrist during the school Christmas program.
Eventually, Julia’s parents started attending the Protestant services and found out about a Christian school in Chicago called the Evangelical Institute. Her parents decided to send Julia to the school.
“I was sent there to be kept out of trouble,” she smiled. “If you can imagine — from Afognak to Chicago.”
Julia traveled to Chicago with Crozier, who was on her way to her home in Pennsylvania.
“We flew to Anchorage and then flew in a little dinky plane to catch the Denali, a steamship to Seattle. From Seattle, I went on a troop train to Chicago,” Julia recalled.
Julia, the girl from Afognak, was lost in the Windy City of Chicago.
“I didn’t know who to talk to. I’d just sit there and cry. Someone teased me about going home, but I couldn’t go home,” she said.
“I really cried when I saw Lake Michigan. It was blowing and raining like it would be blowing and raining at home.”
The day finally came when Julia boarded a train heading west toward Alaska. She traveled with Crozier and another missionary.
The travelers stopped in Seattle to visit Julia’s sister Nina (Lydia’s mother), who was undergoing treatment at the hospital.
When Nina was released, she joined Julia and the missionaries who went to a Bible camp. During that time, they received a letter from Kodiak alluding to the death the girls’ brother Lester Lukin, who had recently been discharged from the Navy.
Julia later learned that her brother had drowned when the fishing vessel Cougar went down in the Shelikof Strait. The boat was heading for Kodiak during the salmon season. The sole survivor was found hanging onto a drum.
The missionaries and the Lukin girls boarded a steamship heading for Alaska. It was a bittersweet ride for Julia, who, on one hand, was anxious to go home, but saddened by the death of her brother.
The steamer dropped the Afognak-bound travelers off at a herring plant at Afognak Straits.
“My dad came to get us. When I got home, I couldn’t stop crying for a long time,” she said.
Julia said her bout with homesickness taught her a great deal. For one thing, she realized that she could live away from her family, even though it was very hard at times. With that in mind, she thought it was time to go away to work.
This time, she traveled across the waters to Port Bailey where she worked in a cannery. There, she met her future husband George Naughton.
A Celebration of Life for Julia will be held Sunday, July 25, at Frontier Baptist Chuch at 3 p.m. Following the service, there will be a potluck in which people will have an opportunity to share stories about Julia. Contact Kathy Druckery, Ruth Dawson or Chris Abell to find out what food to bring.
In honor of Julia Naughton, make sure you show up on time, bring a delicious dish that she would approve of and come prepared to share a story that highlights some of the endearing qualities that earned Julia the title of “Sunshine.”