Alaskans we’ve lost to COVID: Elizabeth Ketah, family matriarch

Elizabeth Ketah was 82 when she died of complications from COVID-19 in Anchorage on Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Tina Mullins)

More than 850 Alaskans have died of COVID-19 since early 2020. We asked readers and listeners to tell us about the lives of some of those Alaskans and they responded.

Tina Mullins lost her mother, Elizabeth Ketah, on Dec. 14, 2020. She was 82 years old.

Ketah was born in Seldovia, met her husband while in boarding school at Mt. Edgecumbe and then moved to Ketchikan. She most recently lived in Anchorage, near her great-grandchildren.

Listen here:

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Tina Mullins: She was like the glue that kept our family together. My mother held her family and God to the foremost, so everything she had done was either for her family or for the community or our church. She was kind, she was a very forgiving person, and I learned unconditional love from her.

She met my father in Mt. Edgecumbe. They actually ran away together — they eloped — and came to Ketchikan. They were married for 60 plus years, and my dad was a preacher. She worked at a cold storage. And I still can smell that fish, I’ll tell you, and she could identify fish more than my dad could. Even though he was the fisherman, she could fillet it better than he could.

There were six of us all together, and I’m the middle child. All of us grew up with our mom always being the one holding down the fort at home, so to speak. My mom taught us that we have to be responsible for ourselves. You know, making sure you get your chores done before you go outside. My parents were also foster parents. And so, when my mom passed away, it literally impacted quite a few families throughout Southeast. So I’m really happy and proud about that — that I’m not grieving by myself.

I worked through the entire pandemic, and because I wasn’t able to see her in the hospital, and we didn’t have a formal funeral, I have to look at the positive side. I have to look at the memories that she gave us, how she helped shape me as an adult and how I deal with the world and myself. Sometimes I feel like she’s going to walk in, or she’s going to call me. And I know that’s not going to be true, but I miss her so much. I still feel her here, and I still dream about her, so she doesn’t feel like she’s definitely gone.

If you would like to share a story of a friend or family member in Alaska who was lost to COVID-19, please to write us here.

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