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Ruth Soberg

Former Soldotna resident Ruth Lauritzen Benson Soberg, 88, died in Seattle on June 14, 2001, after a brief illness.

Born Dec. 17,1912, in the village of Unga, she was one of eight children of Norwegian immigrants Hjalmer and Anna T. Lauritzen. A published account of her childhood at Unga and her subsequent travels through much of Alaska, titled "Unga Island Girl (Ruth's Book)" was "Judges Choice" at the 1997 Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts.

As one of her grandchildren wrote on learning of her death, "She was strong and funny and feminine and practical and wise and kind."

She married Jack Benson, one of Alaska's first fish and game agents, in 1935 and lived at Seward, McGrath and Kodiak in the years leading up to World War II.

Because of his familiarity with the harbors of western Alaska, he was asked to take a commission in the wartime U.S.Navy, and though she had never been outside Alaska, Ruth and their two small daughters were suddenly termed naval dependents and evacuated on a military ship.

She and the girls spent 18 months in Pocatello, Idaho, before being granted permission to return to Alaska in 1942. Several years of nomadic life later, that marriage came to an amicable end.

She and her second husband, Ralph Soberg, had known each other as children on Unga Island and again in the Interior of Alaska. A decade later in Seward they met for a third time, fell in love and were married in 1947.

He was overseeing construction of the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula and with her daughters they settled at his Alaska Road Commission headquarters outside Kenai and later moved to Soldotna.

After his retirement in 1962, they took an apartment in the Ballard district of Seattle and traveled much of the year, with at least one annual trip to Alaska. On Dec. 17, 1992, they celebrated their 45th anniversary and her 80th birthday. He died five days later.

Her family wrote: "From her wartime evacuation through her last visit 'home' in the summer of 2000, Ruth left her beloved Alaska only reluctantly. But she gained a warm regard for the community of Ballard and counted as friends many of the people she met on her urban hikes up and down the hills of northwest Seattle. She had the Lauritzen touch with potted plants, although the wild Alaska long-stemmed violet and forget-me-not were always her favorite flowers.

"As with other Unga Islanders, she was a skilled beachcomber and berry-picker. Her children and grandchildren, though hard put to keep up with her, have inherited her love for wind and weather. Her ashes will be scattered at a favorite family gathering spot on the Oregon coast.

"She never lost her affection for country songs and the Old Country waltzes and schottisches she grew up with, and in their day, she and Ralph made a graceful picture on the dance floor."

Ruth Soberg's survivors include her older sister, Esther Rodgers of Anchorage; daughters Jacquelin Ruth Pels of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Jerry Fallon of Poulsbo, Wash.; son-in-law Werner Pels of Walnut Creek; granddaughters Kiya, Lesie Ruth, Renee, Leah and Jenni; grandsons Andrew, Alex and Kim; great-granddaughters Rachel, Madeleine Ruth, Annie, Caitlin, Emily and Halley; great-grandsons Sean, Sam, Trevor, Riley, Mason and Nicholas; several nieces and nephews; and her boon companion on many a Ballard adventure, Margaret Oden Wilson.

Friends are invited to a memorial gathering at Leif Erickson Hall in Ballard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 19. Those who would like to are encouraged to direct contributions in her memory to Children's Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 5371, Mail Stop CL04, Seattle, WA 98105.

Source: Peninsula Clarion, June 24, 2001



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