Nov. 4, 1924-Nov. 27, 2015
Nelda A. Calhoun, 91, a longtime respected member of the Homer community, died Nov. 27, 2015, at South Peninsula Hospital.
Born Nov. 4, 1924, in Utah, she was the oldest daughter of John P. and Armina Atkin. Nelda graduated from Hurricane High School in 1942 and attended Dixie Junior College.
While waiting tables in a construction camp mess hall, she met C. E. “Red” Calhoun. They married Sept. 24, 1943, before Red shipped out to the South Pacific in World War II. The rest of her life was a love story; her dreams and accomplishments intertwined Red’s and their family.
The couple came to Alaska in 1946, Nelda pregnant with the first of their four children. They settlied in Seldovia where they built their home with lumber made at their sawmill. It was a frontier life for sure, but Red made sure Nelda always had indoor running water.
While Red was building his fishing business, Nelda devoted her time to raising four young children, working in a cannery office and assisting on a Cook Inlet set net site.
In the mid 1950s Nelda was appointed Seldovia’s U.S. Commissioner. In addition to serving as a magistrate, her duties included marrying people as a justice of the peace and signing death certificates as the coroner. The coroner duties often required a flight filled with fear and trepidation to an accident site.
As the Calhoun family grew up, Red and Nelda sought to broaden their children’s education opportunities by moving to Homer in 1962. Nelda immediately found work with the Homer Public Utility District, which led to her being the first City Clerk in the newly incorporated City of Homer on Mar. 31, 1964, just days after the earthquake. Later she was hired by Homer’s doctor to be his office manager.
In 1970 Nelda and Red opened a sparkling new laundromat, the Homer Clean In. Duties were equally shared, with Nelda operating the business and Red maintaining the equipment.
Nelda’s good sense and reason were ably applied during two terms on the Homer City Council. She did not shrink from the challenge and the knotty issues of that time that pitted the development needs and preservation of the natural environment of the Kachemak Bay area.
Recognized for her common sense and integrity, Nelda was selected to serve on the Alaska Statehood Commission created by the voters in 1980 to study Alaska’s relationship with the rest of the United States and to make recommendations for changes to improve that relationship.
Nelda was probably best known for her willingness to open her heart and home to others. Many lifelong friends at one time or another lived with Red and Nelda or in one of their rentals. Live-ins, fish crew and renters all quickly became family, Nelda making sure everyone was welcome at the table. Her quick wit enlivened many a conversation.
Nelda was preceded in death by her husband, Red, in 2010; her parents; and her siblings.
She is survived by her sons, Dennis (Charlotte) of Anchorage; Daniel (Jean) and James (Teresa), both of Homer; and her daughter Sally Anderson (Jerry) of Springfield, Mo.; 15 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren.
Nelda’s ashes, joined with Red’s, will be scattered on Kachemak Bay in the spring during a family gathering. Memorial contributions may be made to the Homer Foundation, P. O. Box 2600, Homer, AK 99603.
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