Longtime Fairbanksan and community activist Mary Virginia Siah, 72, died
Nov. 19, 1995 in Fairbanks.
Siah was best known for her crusade to save the old
community recreational center and swimming pool it held.
Mary Siah was a born organizer
who talked to people, made phone calls, wrote letters, cajoled politicians and generally
gave her all to the causes she took hold of. She didn't like to hear the word "no," and
more than a few government officials would have rather not heard from her as often as they
did. She once told me that sometimes she would return empty-handed from trips to the grocery
store because she would get so busy talking she'd forget to buy food.
The oldest of 15
children, Siah arrived in Fairbanks in 1952. She came north, like many Alaskans, in search
of "better opportunities," family members said.
The old swimming pool was a candidate for
the wrecking ball in the late 1970s, but Siah thought that the borough needed the small pool
to provide a service to handicapped people, children, senior citizens and families. She had
been swimming every day at the pools as part of her rehabilitation from a 1970 car accident.
To save the center, Siah gathered 2,406 signatures on a petition that led to renovation of
Siah had many interests. She continued to petitions for community projects,
took up painting, and was an avid fan of the Fairbanks Gold Kings hockey team. "Every day
that I wake up is one of the best days I've seen yet," she told me in 1985. "If you have a
problem it doesn't do any good to complain. You'd be surprised what you can do for
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner