PALMER — This week marked the end of an era that began more than 75 years ago on May 10, 1935, when the first group of Colonists arrived on the Alaska Railroad.
Minnie Olson, the last of the original known 406 adults who participated in the Matanuska Colony project in 1935, died March 18 in Wilmore, Ky. She was 101. Services are planned in Wilmore today.
She and her husband, Walter, were originally from Duluth, Minn.
Colony historian Jim Fox told Juster another of the original Colonists, Lila Ennes McClanahan, died Dec. 31, 2012, in Harbor Springs, Mich. She was 100.
“They are the last two that we know of,” he wrote in an email. “Probably the closing of an era,” adding that there are several colonists the same age or younger than Mrs. Olson which he and others have been unable to confirm if they are still living or not.
“This is indeed the end of an era,” said filmmaker Joanie Juster, whose films with Paul Hill include “Alaska Far Away” and “Where the River Matanuska Flows.” “As far we have been able to determine, these were the last two adults who took the chance to make a better life for themselves.”
Colony kid Pat Newcomb also died March 14 at age 77.
She was born April 11, 1935, in Milaca County, Minn., to Arnold Robert and Hortense B. Carson and at age 7 days, was the youngest Colonist to be part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”
Juster brought together dozens of Colony kids and other longtime Valley residents to sign a birthday card for Olson during the Alaska State Fair in August 2011 at the Wineck Barn.
The Enneses stayed in Alaska for a couple of years, but likely, only a few people remember the Olsons, who left the Colony July 15, 1935. The government’s Colony project ended in 1939.
“These people have just been living their lives ever since,” Juster said during Olson’s 2011 birthday party.
Juster announced earlier this month that the documentary “Alaska Far Away” will be broadcast on KAKM in Anchorage and KUAC in Fairbanks later this spring, though exact dates and times have yet to be announced.
For more information, visit alaskafaraway.com.
Contact managing editor Heather A. Resz at 352-2268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.