Helen Austerman passed away peacefully in her sleep on March 30 at the age of 75. Given her long list of vices, it must have irritated her to die of “nothing.”
Helen was born in 1946 in Levelock to Helen and Henry Herrmann and was one of 11 siblings. In 1960 she moved to Sitka to finish high school, where she met Richard Austerman, who was in junior college. They married in August 1965, and in January 1966 had a very healthy 8 pound, 4-month-“premature” daughter, Michelle.
The family lived mainly in Juneau, with brief stays in Oregon, where Kimberly was born, and Sitka, where Helen attended dental assistant school and graduated at the top of the state. She worked for several years as a dental assistant but retired in 1999 from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
Helen loved a party. Most evenings she could be found holding court at the dining room table with a rotating cast of local color. She loved her friends fiercely and could also hold a grudge forever. Her daughters’ friends all wanted her to be their mom.
Helen was a liberal who didn’t suffer fools or Republicans. She spent the last four years alternately raging at the state of the world and hiding under the bed.
Helen and Richard began and ended their long life together in Kodiak, surrounded by family who loved them to pieces.
Helen leaves a 5-foot-tall hole in the world that will never be filled. She may have been short but she cast a long shadow. We are sure her parting words would have been “AMF.”
Helen is survived by her husband of 55 years Richard, son-in-law Tom Myers of Washington, DC; son-in-law Loren and granddaughters Lilly and Ruby Jackson of Bellingham, WA; sisters Adelheid Herrmann of Naknek and Betty Miller of Anchorage; brothers George Setuk of Kenai and Ernest Setuk of Levelock; brother in-law Alan Austerman of Kodiak; countless nieces and nephews scattered across Alaska; and her four favorite women in the world, daughters Michelle Myers of Washington, DC, and Kimberly Austerman of Bellingham, WA, and sisters-in-law Joan Altenhof and Jill Skaw of Kodiak.
A celebration of Helen’s life will be held at the American Legion in Kodiak, followed by the internment of her ashes in the summer when we hope travel will be easier for those who want to make the trek to Kodiak. In lieu of flowers, donations in Helen’s name to Senior Citizens of Kodiak would be welcome (302 Erskine, Kodiak, AK 99615).