Ketchikan’s Soon-to-be Newest Centenarian, Henry Neligan
April 17, 2012
According to the 2010 Census there were just over 70,000 Americans who belong to this exclusive club of Centenarians -- and in Alaska there are only 40 residents who are 100 or more years old. Of these 40 Alaskans, two reside in Ketchikan and after May 6th that number will become three.
On May 06, 1912, Neligan was born in Craig, Alaska to Edna Coombs Neligan and Henry Neligan. Neligan a Tlingit, Raven, grew up in Klawock. During that time people lived on the shore and wooden sidewalks were always in use and everyone walked - there were no cars said Neligan. He said if someone wanted to travel in those days they used a row boat which was always tied up on the beach in front of each person’s house.
After elementary school in Klawock Neligan's father sent him to Briscoe Boarding School in Kent, Washington in 1919. There he stayed with his brother until the age of 16 when he took a job for the next three years at a farm in Sumas, Washington near the Canadian border.
During the Great Depression, there was no more work and Neligan's father encouraged him to return to Craig and try fishing. During the depression Neligan recalled that people bartered work for food and a place to stay.
Neligan worked for nearly 50 years as a carpenter and boat builder as well as a fisherman. He built 52 small boats during his career. When he wasn’t building boats or commercial fishing he was playing music in his band. Neligan played the trumpet and his band members included Paul Davis on trombone, Arthur Demmert who played saxophone and Bobby Armour who played guitar, bass drum and sang. Those were the days, Neligan said, when people liked to dance.
One of Neligan’s memorable adventures was a trip which took him nearly around the world with his 2nd wife Susie. They took a ship from New York to Europe. They visited Russia, including Siberia. After returning to New York they travelled by train to Seattle and then on Alaska Airlines to Ketchikan.
As you might imagine many historical events have taken place during Henry Neligan's life. His most vivid historical moment was when man walked on the moon in 1969.
He says the secret to his long life is good genes. Neligan’s father lived to be 104 residing in Klawock the entire time. Henry Neligan said he never drank or smoked and he likes simple foods. These days he enjoys making rice and any kind of fish -- these are his favorite meals. Favorite dessert: Lemon Meringue Pie.
Soon-to-be Centenarian Henry Neligan has six children and numerous grand and great grandchildren.
Neligan’s birthday will be celebrated during the grand opening of the Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center (SSEATEC) Café at 615 Stedman Street on May 12th. Birthday greetings are expected to be received from the entire congressional delegation, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and from President Barack Obama.
The Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center kitchen will provide daily meals delivered to Elders. In addition, the kitchen will act as a training facility for culinary arts classes expected to start later this year or early 2013.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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