Janet Burke talks about some of her father’s things on display at the Walter Soboleff Center as her brothers, Walter Jr., center, and Sasha, watch on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Nov. 14 was named Dr. Walter Soboleff Day by the Alaska Legislature in 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Janet Burke talks about some of her father’s things on display at the Walter Soboleff Center as her brothers, Walter Jr., center, and Sasha, watch on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Nov. 14 was named Dr. Walter Soboleff Day by the Alaska Legislature in 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Family shares items and stories for Dr. Walter Soboleff Day

Soboleff’s sons and daughter loan collection to Sealaska Heritage Institute for display

The Soboleffs gathered at the Walter Soboleff Building for Dr. Walter Soboleff Day.

Janet Soboleff Burke, Sasha I. Soboleff and Walter Soboleff Jr. and a loaned collection of the late Walter Soboleff’s belongings were present Wednesday near the entrance of the Sealaska Heritage Institute building named for the longtime Sealaska board of directors member and past SHI board chairman.

“They’re all our favorites,” Burke said of the items that included a Masonic hat, beaded vest, cane, a bible, photographs and more accumulated by the scholar, minister and civic leader, who lived to 102.

Heather McClain, collections manager for SHI, said all of the items are new to SHI as of this week, and while they were displayed for the noon hour of on Dr. Walter Soboleff Day, they will be available for research appointments. Nov. 14 was officially designated a holiday back in 2014.

The bible on display included notes from Walter Soboleff and was one of more than 50 the had accumulated. His children said he had a habit of annotating, highlighting passages and making notes of the differences between versions of the scripture.

Burke identified Micah 6:8 as her father’s favorite verse.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.”

Sasha and Walter Jr. Soboleff wore Walter Soboleff Day T-shirts with one of their father’s favorite quotes on the back, “Take care of the old person you are going to become.”

The three surviving Soboleff adult children — Ross Soboleff passed away in July — shared stories about their father who was a scholar, Presbyterian minister, a 33rd-degree Mason and civic leader as a prominent Alaska Native.

Burke recalled a cruise they went on for her father’s 101st birthday to see the Panama Canal. It also satisfied an interest in cruise ships.

Burke said her dad would watch the ships often, read a wide selection of cruise-focused magazines and assemble his own packets of information, but he had never been inside of one until that trip.

“He was awestruck by the interior of the cruise ship,” Burke said.

During a tour, the centenarian got to show off his knowledge of the vessel.

“The first mate told the captain, ‘He might know more about this ship than we do,’” Burke said.

The Soboleffs also talked about what it’s like to be the sons and daughter of a man who has a state holiday named in his honor. They said as a minister’s child, you always need to be on good behavior, but that’s especially true if your dad is a statewide icon.

“A lot of people recognize him and ask if we’re Walter’s kids,” Sasha Soboleff said.“My sister could be in Hawaii, and someone would talk about dad. My brother could be in San Diego and someone would talk about dad. You always had to mind your Ps and Qs. “

City museum too

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum also observed Dr. Walter Soboleff Day through a monthlong offer.

Throughout November, visitors to the museum have the opportunity to send a letter for free.

“What they’re getting are nice cards, postage and an insert that honors Walter Soboleff,” said Elisa Borges, public programs coordinator for the museum. “We’ve had probably, all told, had about 100 people that have so far requested letters.”

Borges said the program reflects Soboleff’s prolific letter writing, which his children recalled during their event.

“All the women thought he was only writing to them,” Sasha Soboleff said.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


A picture of the Rev. Dr. Walter Soboleff on his 100th Birthday and his hat from the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons on display at the Walter Soboleff Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Nov. 14 was named Dr. Walter Soboleff Day by the Alaska Legislature in 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A picture of the Rev. Dr. Walter Soboleff on his 100th Birthday and his hat from the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons on display at the Walter Soboleff Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Nov. 14 was named Dr. Walter Soboleff Day by the Alaska Legislature in 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

The LeConte state ferry departs Juneau on Tuesday afternoon, bound for Haines on a special round-trip following two cancelled sailings due to a mechanical problem. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
LeConte returns to service with special trip to Haines after weekend cancellation

State ferry will pick up half of nearly 60 stranded vehicles, others may have to wait until July.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 27, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Anchorage pullers arrived at Wrangell’s Petroglyph Beach on May 23 for a canoe-naming ceremony. One of the canoes they will paddle to Juneau was dedicated to Wrangell’s Marge Byrd, Kiks.adi matriarch Shaawat Shoogoo. The canoe’s name is Xíxch’ dexí (Frog Backbone). (Becca Clark / Wrangell Sentinel)
Canoes making 150-mile journey from Wrangell, other Southeast communities to Celebration

Paddlers expected to arrive in Juneau on June 4, one day before biennial Alaska Native gathering.

The Alaska State Capitol and Dimond Courthouse are seen on Thursday morning, Jan. 18. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Judicial Council recommends Alaskans keep all judges, including figure behind correspondence ruling

The Alaska Judicial Council has voted to recommend that state voters retain… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, May 26, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, May 25, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, May 24, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Wreath bearers present wreaths for fallen comrades, brothers and sisters in arms during a Memorial Day ceremony at Alaskan Memorial Park on Monday. Laying wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes is a way to honor and remember the sacrifices made. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Traditional Memorial Day ceremonies offer new ways to ‘never forget’ those who served

New installations at memorial sites, fresh words of reminder shared by hundreds gathering in Juneau.

Most Read