PUBLISHED: 1:45 PM on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Miyasato plays the tune of growing up in Juneau

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Kitty Miyasato looks at photographs from her childhood in Juneau and Douglas.
A living history of the evolution of Douglas and Juneau can be found in Kitty Miyasato.

The 78-year-old woman was born in one of the first homes on Douglas Island and has spent her life in Juneau. She smiles when telling stories of her childhood and is filled with pride at the mention of her eight children, seven grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.

A New Year's baby, Miyasato was born in her home in Douglas because no one was around to help her mother get to Juneau.

"Dad played piano at the New Year's Eve dance in Juneau, and we didn't have the boat to make it across to Juneau," Miyasato said.

From birth Miyasato found ways to make do with what she had. Her family moved to Juneau and money was tight, but she wanted to attend athletic events for her school.

"I was given $60 to get school clothes. As I walked past the music shop I saw a clarinet in the window, and it was $60. I walked in there and got that clarinet and didn't even think about the clothes once," Miyasato said. "I knew how to read music, but I had to teach myself how to play. It didn't occur to me that I didn't know how to play it. I practiced every morning, afternoon and night so I wouldn't get kicked out of the band and I could go the basketball games for free."

She said her parents did not scold her for purchasing the musical instrument, and her mother got school clothes from donations from her sisters.

"I don't know how they put up with me," Miyasato said.

Dancing was a necessary skill to learn she said.

"I had to learn to jitterbug because my sisters wanted to go to the dances and had to take me with them because I was too young to leave at home, and my parents went out," Miyasato said.

Married just after high school and divorced at a young age with small children, Miyasato said she values an education.

She became an accountant, working for several state and federal offices, but said she wanted to become a lawyer.

"I prefer law but never went to law school. A man my dad knew was going to pay for me to go, but I got married instead," Miyasato said.

Miyasato sold her home in September and moved into an apartment and said she used the money to establish a scholarship fund for her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

"The first thing I thought I'd do with the money is get the kids new cars. Then I thought, 'Heck, they can get their own cars.' I think it's important to get an education and I wanted to make sure the grandkids and great grandkids could do that," she said.

Miyasato has been a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood since she was a child. Miyasato was pleased to meet Hilary Clinton during a trip to Washington, D.C. Miyasato went to the nation's capitol as a representative of the Douglas Indian Association to celebrate the unveiling of the Sacagawea dollar coin.

"She was going through the line and shaking people's hands and walking on, but she stopped and talked to me for a little bit," Miyasato said. "She was so nice."

Miyasato said she always is busy and enjoys spending time with her family and exercising with her friends.

"You've got to stay busy. When I turned 75, I thought it was a big deal, but now I just turned 78 and I'm still going strong," she said.