PUBLISHED: 2:31 PM on Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Douglas, Juneau marshals celebrate Independence Day
A grand group
Fourth of July wouldn't be the same without parades, and this year's Douglas and Juneau parades are represented by grand marshals who have served their communities throughout the years. Serving as grand marshals for Douglas are Carlene Bednarowicz, Claudette Curtis and Barbara Bell; Juneau's grand marshals are George and Jean Rogers. Here's a look at the folks who will lead the crowds on Independence day.

Carlene Bednarowicz

Modest and kind - Carlene Bednarowicz, 63, is part of the Douglas 2007 grand marshall team. Originally from Tillamook, Ore., she has lived in Douglas since April 1970. Of Irish lineage, her family includes husband Peter; children Cean Murphy and Petrina Bednarowicz/Powers and grandchild Paxton.

Courtesy photo
  From left: Claudette Curtis, Barbara Bell and Carlene Bednarowicz have been selected as grand marshals for the Douglas Fourth of July parade.
Carlene retired from the State of Alaska DOT&PF where she was an Administrative Clerk.

A woman of many passions, her hobbies include bowling, reading, hiking and walking. She also enjoys meeting new people, and often welcomes traveling guests from the Douglas Methodist Church into her home.

Actively involved in community service, Bednarowicz assists in the hot breakfast meal program at Gastineau Elementary School, 180 days a year.

Additional community service is respite and care work at SE Senior Services. Carlene is a Sunday school teacher at the Douglas Community Methodist Church and scout leader.

Bednarowicz has also volunteered at the Glory Hole from 1981 to 2002 as a volunteer, cooking, shopping and more.

A lot of people think the Glory Hole mainly serves drunks, which is upsetting to her, she said.

"There are people of all walks of life," she said. "There are people who just can't pay their bills," she said.

Bednarowicz welcomes Fourth of July, especially the volunteer aspect. She said she usually works at the church barbecue.

She said she enjoys the bagpipes, even though her husband can't stand them.

"I've not missed any of the parades," she said concerning years spent in Juneau.

"This is the best time of year for me," Bednarowicz said.

"I'm very humbled by it all; I've very touched and honored that they considered me," Bednarowicz said.

Photo by Abby LaForce
  George and Jean Rogers have been selected as grand marshals for the Juneau Fourth of July parade.
"So many of them (past grand marshals) have done many things-I don't feel worthy," she said.

Claudette Curtis

Deservingly crowned as Douglas' grand marshall, Claudette Curtis, 71, is much loved by her peers and community members. Born in Seward, Curtis has lived in Douglas since 1981 and in Juneau previously.

She is currently retired from the State of Alaska as Secretary of Commission for the department of Corrections.

"She just a quiet angel," said dean Sandra Coon, of the Methodist Church Camp where Curtis volunteers.

"Her heart is tender toward all children and animals. She pet sits for people including a pot-belly pig, which has become her favorite," Coon said.

Curtis' volunteer efforts and community service are wide and varied.

She serves on the Alaska missionary conference for the Douglas Community United Methodist Church, writes and publishes their newsletter and serves as an elder for the United Methodist Women.

"She prays for people on a daily basis; she's touched hundreds of people's lives," Coon said.

Additional community service includes her work at the Gastineau School breakfast program, co-leader for the Girl Scouts, senior lunch and Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau volunteer. Curtis also served on the Glory Hole board for 10 years.

"She likes kids so well that she's a (camp) counselor," grand marshal Barbara Bell said.

Curtis acts as leader in the Methodist Church Camp and vacation bible school, working extensively in the nature program where she's served four years.

She has sponsored children with scholarships as well, Coon said.

Bell said Curtis is very busy in her community volunteer efforts, assisting and cooking for church functions, school and also works in the tour industry.

"She's one of those types of people if you need something, she'll help you; she's just a sweetheart," Bell said.

"She has a heart of gold, you can only praise her; she's one of the most faithful, dedicated people I've ever met," Coon said.

Barbara Bell

Nicknamed "grandma oatmeal," by recipients of the Gastineau School breakfast program, grand marshal Barbara Bell, 68, of Douglas loves improving the lives and stomach's of hungry children.

When nominated as grand marshal, Bell's reaction was disbelief.

"I can't believe it-we're just ordinary people, it's kind of a shock," she said.

Originally from Oregon, Bell moved to Alaska in 1948 via the Alaska Steam Ship Baranoff with her mother, father and two brothers. Most of her time was spent in Douglas but she also lived in Skagway and Tenekee.

Bell has been married to her husband Dennis for 48 years, raising children Kevin, Gary, Donna and Cheryl.

She remembered when first courting with her husband, her father initiated a pretend barter system with Dennis.

"My father traded me for a white king salmon-my father was a big jokester!" she said.

Currently, Bell is raising Cheryl's 15-year-old son Nikko; their daughter died of brain cancer in 1997.

"We've been though a lot of teenager time, he's a typical 15-year-old," she said.

In 1990, Barbara retired from the State of Alaska, as an accounting technician in the Payroll department. They moved to Kodiak to work a salmon set-net site, and in the winter were caretakers for the cannery at Port Bailey in Wald Cove until 1999.

"It was really fun in Kodiak, he and I, the bears and two dogs," she said.

Barbara and her husband then moved back to Douglas where she has been volunteering for the Gastineau School breakfast program and the Douglas Methodist Church Camp and vacation bible school. At the bible school, Bell is known as "snack grandma," and also takes care of first aid.

Every year Bell collects teddy bears from St. Vincent de Paul, so her patients get a fuzzy friend placed on their bed when recuperating from bug bites or upset stomachs.

She said one year they did a drawing for children to receive a teddy bear, and afterward she looked into the sad eyes of those who didn't receive a bear and thought, "my little grandma heart said, 'oh, no,'" she said. Now, every child gets a teddy bear due to her generosity.

Bell said she looks forward to July 4th because of the weather and likes watching the parade floats.

"I know it's a honor-we (volunteer) because we like kids and low-income kids need breakfast," she said.

George and Jean Rogers

George and Jean Rogers will be married 65 years this November, and the day they met is still vivid as ever. They became acquainted at UC Berkeley, where they both received degrees. George, 90, who is originally from San Francisco, majored in economics and Jean Rogers, 87, originally from Idaho, majored in English literature.

"I saw (a girl) in a purple sweater that stood out in the crowd, she smiled up at me and there was this vacant seat," George said.

Later, he said to his roommate, 'I met the girl I want to marry,'" he said. They met in April and were married by September.

"I felt it was important to marry someone with a sense of humor," Jean said.

This year the contented couple is Juneau's Fourth of July parade grand marshals, and they're quite pleased to be picked.

"It's such a community affair, everyone comes out for the Fourth of July-I don't think it happens in every city," Jean said.

"George thought it probably meant we have one foot in the grave because they always ask older people to do it!" Jean said.

As past participants in two parade floats, they recall winning a prize some years ago with two of their children.

Titled, "The Evergreen Avenue Mud Pie Bakery;" the float was a little English car with the back end down.

"We put the kids on it in chefs clothes, all the while industriously cooking mud pies," Jean said.

"They didn't have a category for it, so they made one and gave us a prize. It was 25 dollars."

The Rogers adopted six children, and now have grand children and great grandchildren.

The Rogers have lived in Juneau since January of 1945, when George was sent by the government to deal with inflation problems.

Rogers was a longtime economic consultant to the Alaska constitutional convention.

"We came to Alaska to put a ceiling price on raw fish; it was an impossible assignment but I came anyways," he said.

After the war ended, George worked for territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening preparing Alaska for statehood and changed the way Alaska collects taxes.

The Governor had an outside team from the University of Washington design an income tax system that was 120 pages, he said.

He reduced the income tax system to 12 pages, which was widely admired and written up in the Harvard Law Review.

On George's 90th birthday, May 5, Mayor Botelho declared it "George Rogers Appreciation Day."

"The Legislature followed with a proclamation for my years of service," he said.

In addition to working in every department of the state and publishing several books on "real world economics," he enjoys architecture and reading.

One of his architectural endeavors included redesigning the downtown Zach Gordon Youth Center.

Alongside her husband, Jean worked hard to get where she is today. She worked as a fifth grade teacher in a training college to earn enough money for attending Berkeley.

"I had to work for five and a half years before I went to school, it was during the depression. Kids today don't understand--you had to become an adult almost immediately," she said.

As a longtime volunteer in the community Jean Rogers has worked in school libraries, volunteered for the March of Dimes Clinic, aided with school health services and is currently a public library volunteer.

"I'm the oldest living volunteer from Harborview school; I've been a volunteer for 20 years," she said.

When the last of their children were in high school, she "finally had time and energy for creative endeavor," she said.

"I always intended to be a writer; I was in love with books and libraries," Jean said.

"It was an ambition of mine, and after five years of trying I had a book published called 'Goodbye, My Island.'"

Now a well-known, respected and much loved children's book writer, she continues to contribute her creative voice to the community.

She said she always wanted to write children's books because "you don't have to deal with sex and violence."

A musical was created based on her book "King Island Christmas;" additional books include Runaway Mittens illustrated by local artist Rie Muñoz.

Currently, her new book "Secret Moose," will be released soon but they don't have a finalized date, she said.

When George ran for city counsel, they put in a $25 ad in the paper and it read, "paid for by his wife with the grocery money," she said.

Working together, "we were very much involved in building up the state and the city," they said.

"We think Juneau is a wonderful place to live, it's not only beautiful but filled with intelligent, sharing people. We've enjoyed living here and intend to stay," Jean said.