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Letters shed new light on life of Alaska woman

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 11:13 am

JUNEAU, Alaska - Carl Brodersen was close to his grandmother, Betty Clauson. But a fuller picture of her emerged after her death last month, at age 93, as Brodersen began going through her old letters.

Some of the letters predated Clauson's time in Alaska, where she moved as a newlywed in 1945. They also show a life outside the school and library in Pelican, where she worked for decades.

Clauson was Pelican's first librarian, starting the collection in the tiny southeast Alaska community with a few books in 1949, the Juneau Empire reported ( ) Monday.

Brodersen found letters dating to the early 1940s, between Clauson and a college boyfriend. There were later letters between Clauson and a soldier, planning a second date that never happened, as the soldier's leave was canceled, Brodersen said.

Around 1944, Clauson met the man who would eventually become her husband, a fisherman named John Clauson. The two were married for about 66 years, until John's death a few years ago. Brodersen said his grandmother saved every letter that John had ever sent her.

He said it was interesting to see a softer side of his grandpa, a man he had known to be so stoic.

"She definitely brought out the best in him," he said. "She and my grandfather had a very charming relationship, even well into old age."

Gail Corbin met the Clausons in 1962. She said she helped Betty Clauson move the library at least three times.

"Betty kept adding steadily to the inventory of books. Being a fisherman's wife, she knew the value of how-to books. Living in a remote location, and before the Internet, such books were well-used," Corbin said.

By the time Clauson retired in 1995 at the age of 75, Pelican had a full-fledged library.

Clauson also taught school in Pelican, and Brodersen said she saved hundreds of handmade valentines from students over the years. He said she had a way of communicating with children, right down to the animated way in which she read books to them.

Brodersen said his grandmother enjoyed reading until her death at the Sitka Pioneers' Home; on visits there, he would read to her.

He said she always had a smile that could light up a room.

He said he's been enjoying piecing together his family's past through the photographs, letters and other items he's found in the Pelican house. He said he's found about 1,000 black and white photos, taken with Clauson's old Polaroid camera.

"There was a graceful way she interacted with the world that made you want to sit up straight and be polite," he said. "I'll really miss that."


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire,

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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