By Rick Smeriglio for SCN –
Under auspiciously clearing skies after days of rain, the local directing group of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm, National Heritage Area (KMTANHA), along with the National Park Service and the US Forest Service, dedicated an interpretive sign near L. V. Ray Peak in Moose Pass, Alaska on Tuesday, August 26. A small crowd gathered at the Johnson Pass South Trailhead to honor a man who arrived in Seward before creation of the Chugach National Forest, served as Mayor of Seward, served as Senate President of the very first Alaska Territorial Legislature and inspired the name of a 4,911-foot mountain seen between miles 31 and 33 of the Seward Highway. His daughter, Patricia Ray Williams, “Pat” to her many Seward friends, nominated the mountain to bear his name. L.V. Ray’s great, great grandchildren attended the event.
Said Willard Dunham of the sign, “It has been a long time coming back. It’s nice that it’s coming back. I did the first one as president of the Chamber of Commerce.”
The original sign honoring L.V. Ray apparently perished some years ago.
Willard Dunham too, served as a Mayor of Seward. Bev and Willard Dunham founded the Seward Phoenix Log newspaper in 1966. The Alaska Women’s Hall of fame has inducted Bev Dunham into its ranks.
Another longtime Sewardite, Sanna Levan, said, “Pat Williams is a great friend of mine. I remember the original sign.”
During the dedication, KMTANHA Board of Director’s President Janet McCabe read a letter from current Senior US Senator for the state of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, congratulating KMTANHA on its efforts to preserve cultural resources in the Kenai Mountains and Turnagain Arm areas. Senior Senator Murkowski, co-sponsored along with the rest of Alaska’s congressional delegation, the legislation creating the Kenai Mountain and Turnagain Arm addition to the National Heritage Area system. According to its website, KMTANHA does not manage land or regulate land use.
Philip Williams, great grandson of L.V. Ray also attended the event. He climbs the mountain every year. Williams gave news of his grandmother Pat Williams, now nearly 105 years old.
Philip Williams said, “She [Pat] is still into the politics of Seward. She’s the one who told me about this [sign dedication].” “She is doing fine,” he also said.
At the close of the ceremony, Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan, Program Manager for KMTANHA, presented Philip Williams with a framed replica of the interpretive sign. Williams said he would place it on his wall next to the original glass nameplate that LeRoy Vincent Ray hung outside his law office in Seward.
Travelers can view the interpretive sign in the trailhead parking lot at mile 32.6 of the Seward Highway, ensconced in a rustic, Alaska yellow-cedar signboard. KMTANHA Board of Directors takes public input at any time. Founding member and current President Janet McCabe says that her non-profit group remains open to ideas and suggestions. Currently, the Board has interest in commemorating Lawing’s own Alaska Nellie. The Board wants to replace her gravestone at least. KMTANAH promotes the cultural resources of the land and its people. The Board will have its next meeting on October 23, in Seward. For more information go to www.kmtacorridor.org.