Jalmar “Jay” Kerttula, who was Alaska House speaker and Senate president during his long legislative career, has died. He was 92.
Kerttula died Friday in Juneau, according to a statement released Tuesday by his daughter, Beth Kerttula. Beth Kerttula, herself a former state legislator, told The Associated Press she was influenced “all the time, every day” by the examples set by her father and mother, Joyce, who died in 2015.
Joyce Kerttula became an “unpaid volunteer” in her husband’s office after finding unanswered letters in a drawer, according to the statement.
Jay Kerttula, a Palmer Democrat, served more than 30 years between the state House and Senate, beginning in 1961. With the exception of the third Legislature, which ran from 1963-1964, he served continuously until losing his reelection bid in 1994.
“He began his political career when Alaska had little funding, but a lot of hope,” the statement reads, adding he and other leaders were able to put aside partisan politics and “focus on issues.”
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, in a social media post said Jay Kerttula “dedicated his life to public service and played a pivotal role in creating the state we live in today. Jay will be sorely missed by many, and his name will never be forgotten in Alaska history.”
Survivors include his daughters Beth Kerttula and Anna Kerttula de Echave. No immediate plans for a memorial were announced.