Anchorage 30.0 °F
Fairbanks 14.0 °F
Juneau 33.0 °F
Wilna Lee McAnerney, former mayor of Seward and commissioner of community and regional affairs during the administration of Gov. Jay Hammond, died Sept. 5, 2007, at her Wasilla home. She was 86.
A service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Church in Seward. Friends attending the service are asked to bring a white rose. A reception will be after the service at the church. A private burial is planned.
Lee was born July 14, 1921, at the Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco. Her mother, Hilma Josephina Hihnala, was the military wife of Marvyn Delbert Williams. That marriage and a subsequent one failed before Hilma met and married Lee's stepfather, Sol Urie, in 1925 in Valdez. Lee was adopted by Sol and the family was transferred by Washington and Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System from Valdez to Seward.
By 1971, Lee's political engines had been ignited and by popular demand she ran for and was elected to the City Council, where she served through 1973. She then ran and was elected as mayor of Seward in 1973, a position unique for women at the time.
Befriending and supporting Jay Hammond for governor, Lee was called in 1974 to serve in his new government in Juneau. She held the post of commissioner of community and regional affairs throughout his two terms, leaving in 1982. Traveling throughout the state, country and internationally on Alaska's business, Lee solidified her reputation as a leader and government executive. During this time, Lee was asked to sit on several bank and bond boards.
Throughout her life, Lee often gave her time to others. She held a position with the Institute of Marine Science, where the highly acclaimed Seward Association for the Advancement of Marine Science was developed. She served on the University of Alaska Fairbanks' College of Fellows and as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Oil and Gas Taxation, the state Geographic Names Board and several other organizations and entities. She served as chapter president of the Pioneers of Alaska and always intended to return to the Pioneers' Home in Seward at some time in her later years. After her retirement from state government, Lee enjoyed several years of travel throughout the world, always returning to her home in Seward.
Lee battled health issues several times during her life and decided to relocate to Seattle in 1991 for a milder climate. There she enjoyed getting together with Kappa Delta sorority sisters and classmates from the University of Washington who share the Order of the Pearl honors. She was an active member of the American Association of University Women. She also spent time with many of the men and women she had mentored over her long career in Alaska government. In 1999, she rejoined her friends in Alaska, returning to Anchorage and the home of her granddaughter, Terri Lincoln. She then moved with her daughter, Jane Gall, to Valdez and later to her final home in Wasilla.
Lee was a tireless fundraiser for political and charitable causes throughout her long life. She loved opera, travel, theater, fashion and her family and friends.
She is survived by her daughter, Jane Gall of Wasilla; and son, Peter McAnerney of Canada; sister and brother-in-law, Sanna and Duane Levan of Seward; grandchildren, Sarah and Chris Middlestadt; great-grandchildren, Hunter Lee Beling, Scott Glenn Berry, Samantha Suzanne Middlestadt, Hannah Jane Middlestadt, all of Wasilla. Other survivors include grandchildren Terri and Paul Lincoln and great-granddaughter, Denali Jade Lincoln of Anchorage; and her nieces and nephews, Sue Ann, Mel Judy and Ian Fulp and children.
The family appreciates friends' prayers and thoughts and for those interested, a donation is suggested to a local Alzheimer's association.
Arrangements are with Valley Funeral Homes & Crematory
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