By resolution, Staton was named "Director Emeritus" and "Chairman Emeritus" of Shee Atiká, Inc. in recognition of her role in founding the corporation, continuous service as a director, and her contributions that led to the prosperity the corporation now enjoys.
Courtesy photo Harold "Bunny" Donnelly hugs longtime friend and fellow Shee Atiká director Ethel Staton, who was honored at the Shee Atiká annual meeting for her service as a director since the founding of the corporation in 1974.
Staton asked her son Norman to read her speech at the annual meeting banquet, which recalled the tumultuous early years of the corporation and the stable and prosperous last two decades.
"My experiences with Shee Atiká have been a major highlight in my life," she wrote.
"It's difficult for me to remember when my life didn't revolve around the Shee Atiká schedule of meetings and events. I will miss it a great deal."
Staton's daughter, Candi Barger, also spoke at the banquet, describing a family life deeply involved with her parents' businesses that included a motel and three successive restaurants.
"I can always remember spending Thanksgiving sharing our meals at the Pioneer Grill with folks that didn't have a place to go," said Barger.
"People still tell my brother and me about the early days knowing Mom and Dad at the Pioneer Grill, Sitka Café or Staton's Steakhouse."
Barger voiced admiration for her mother's dedication to Shee Atiká and other organizations. "She's a force to be reckoned with, greatly respected by her peers, the Native community, the business world, St. Peter's Episcopal church, all the boards she has served on, her friends and mostly her family."
Staton leaves her active role as a board member with the corporation at a high water mark in its fortunes. The annual report presented at this year's annual meeting listed well over $100 million in assets held collectively by the Shee Atiká Group that Staton helped create. The group is composed of the corporation itself, SAFE (the Shee Atiká Fund Endowment) and SABT (Shee Atiká Benefits Trust).
SAFE, which holds a majority of the Group's assets, produces annual distributions to shareholders that have averaged approximately $12.50 per share in recent years. Most shareholders hold about 100 shares. Even those who hold only one share have equal benefits in SABT (pronounced "sa-but"), the trust that provides post-high school educational scholarships.
Every shareholder is eligible to receive $2,200 for each academic year, up to $4,400 per individual shareholder for graduate studies, and an accelerated program that can provide up to $6,600 per shareholder for attendance at career-advancing training programs. SABT also provides funeral benefits for the families of deceased shareholders.
"Today, Shee Atiká is one of the most successful Native corporations in Alaska, with over $100 million in assets, most held in our trust, SAFE," said Marion Williams Berry of Juneau. She was first elected to the Shee Atiká board in 1997 and has served as chair since 2001.
"It is easy to forget that 20 years ago, law suits had forced us to the brink of bankruptcy. It took steadfast determination of directors like Ethel to keep our corporation going."
In the early 1970s, Staton served on Shee Atiká's predecessor, the non-profit Sitka Native Association. In 1974, she helped incorporate the organization as a profit making ANCSA corporation under the Tlingit name for Sitka, "Shee Atiká." Originally, 1,851 shareholders were enrolled. Today, through inheritance and the gifting of shares, there are approximately 3,000 Shee Atiká shareholders.
Ethel Staton was born in Ketchikan to Tsimshian and Yugoslavian parents. She married Norman Staton in 1944, and ten years later the couple moved to Sitka where they opened the Pioneer Grill. In 1968, they built and opened Staton's Steakhouse, a well-known landmark in Sitka for many years. Their children, Norman Staton Jr. and Candi Barger and families live in Sitka.
Now a widow, Ethel remains active as the owner of the Log Cache Gifts and Jewelry, a trustee of the Sheldon Jackson College and member of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.
With 58 percent of the shares represented in person or by proxy at the 33rd Annual Meeting of Shee Atiká Inc., the Alaska Native Claims urban corporation for Sitka, shareholders voted on June 16 to return two long-serving directors and elect a replacement for retiring director Ethel Staton.
Gene Bartolaba of Sitka, first elected in 1986, and Francine Eddy Jones of Juneau (elected in 1995), were returned for three-year terms.
Sitka optometrist Dr. Pamela Steffes was elected to her first term on the corporation's nine-member board of directors. Steffes, the first director elected of a new generation of shareholders who have inherited or been gifted shares, replaces Ethel Staton.
Reelected to officer positions were Marion Williams Berry as chair, Loretta Ness as vice chair, Gene Bartolaba as secretary, Francine Eddy Jones as treasurer, and Robert G. Loiselle as president.