photo courtesy of SEARHC Jessie Jim shares a laugh during her retirement party in January 2005. Jessie, who died in a February 2007 house fire, was a Community Health Aide Practitioner at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Angoon Health Center for 35 years. SEARHC and the Angoon Community Association on Friday are renaming the clinic to the Jessie Norma Jim Health Center in honor of Jessie's long service to the community.
Story last updated at 11/19/2008 - 4:23 pm
ANGOON - A dedication ceremony honoring Jessie Jim takes place at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, when the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and the Angoon Community Association will rename the SEARHC Angoon Health Center in her honor. The clinic's new name will be the Jessie Norma Jim Health Center.
Jessie was a longtime Community Health Aide Practitioner (CHAP) for Angoon, providing 35 years of service to her community before retiring in 2005. She was part of the first group of Alaska Community Health Aides that helped launch the CHAP program in Southeast Alaska back in the late 1960s. Jessie was 67 years old when she passed away in a February 2007 house fire that also claimed the life of her grandson, Charles L. Nelson.
"We are honored to name this clinic for Jessie, who was so dedicated and committed to the health and well-being of the Angoon people," said Roald Helgesen, SEARHC President/CEO. "Jessie treated her patients with kindness, wisdom and respect."
"Jessie was somebody who was always there; she was dependable, caring and reliable," said Angoon Community Association Vice President Wally Frank, whose wife, Elizabeth, was Jessie's sister. "After 35 years she retired, but they still needed her so she kept on working at the clinic to the end. She was always someone dependable, someone you could reach at any time. She was missed greatly in Angoon by the people she served. She was always laughing, caring, and she made people feel good, even if they were sick. It was her nature. A lot of people remember her laughter. What everybody knew about her was she was very kind, polite, and they knew her laughter."
Jessie was born in 1939 to John and Nadja Gambell of Angoon. She attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, then went on to earn a Licensed Practical Nurse certificate in 1960. She moved back to Angoon about 1962, where she was a volunteer health aide working out of her home with limited equipment and medicine. She did everything from deliver babies to treating accident trauma.
When the Alaska CHAP program started in 1968, Jessie was one of the first people to receive CHAP training and certification, which allowed her to finally get paid for her work. She was provided a small space in the school to see patients. The first Angoon Health Center was built in the late 1980s. It was replaced in 2004 by the current 7,700-square-foot clinic that tripled the size of the old clinic and now will bear Jessie's name.
Jessie was featured in a 2006 two-part audio interview recorded by the Community Health Aides Program Project Jukebox and posted online at http://uaf-db.uaf.edu/Jukebox/cha/htm/jjim1.htm. For most of her career Jessie worked with Barbara Johnson, who moved to Yakutat in 1988 and also has an interview on the Project Jukebox site where she talks about their work together. For 20 years Jessie and Barbara were the two Community Health Aides working in Angoon, the only regular medical staff in the village.