Governor Parnell signs HB 217 at Marine Park, July 30, 2014.
November 14 is now Dr. Walter Soboleff Day in Alaska, a day to honor the late, beloved Tlingit elder.
At Marine Park today in Juneau, Governor Sean Parnell signed into law House Bill 217 by Sitka Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins to make Dr. Soboleff’s November 14 birthday a time to remember a man who made his home in Juneau and was widely known throughout the state as a gentle and graceful spiritual leader and statesman. He passed away on May 22, 2011, at the age of 102.
Dr. Soboleff was born in Killisnoo near Angoon in 1908. He was the grandson of Russian Orthodox minister Ivan Soboleff and loved school from an early age. For him, Abraham Lincoln was a hero – so much so that he often would recite the Gettysburg Address in Tlingit and English.
He moved to Juneau in 1940 to become a minister at Memorial Presbyterian Church. My family was part of his congregation. We continued to look up to him as a spiritual leader after he left that church in 1962 and became an itinerant minister aboard the Princeton Hall, a beautiful wooden ship known by many in Southeast Alaska.
Dr. Soboleff was there for us during good times and sad times. He officiated over marriages and funerals, imbuing the former with joy and the latter with comfort.
His words, deeds, and, indeed, his very presence radiated grace. He often spoke of hard work, unity, and respect.
Soon there will be a cultural center in the heart of Downtown Juneau to honor a remarkable man who always will be in the hearts of many.
With his family – Sasha, Janet, Walter Jr. and Ross, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – I look forward to celebrating November 14 as Dr. Walter Soboleff Day.
Left to right: Walter Soboleff children: Walter, Jr., Ross, Sasha, and Janet; John Moller, Gov. Parnell, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Sen. Dennis Egan, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford.