A pink, bingo dauber rested near a photo at Esther Hotch’s funeral service Aug. 24 in the Klukwan gym. Hotch’s snow shovel wasn’t there, but it wasn’t overlooked.
According to family members who spoke at Friday’s memorial, Hotch wouldn’t abide more than a few inches of snow before going out to clear the driveway and much of the adjoining street, even into her 90s.
She also didn’t tolerate dandelions, they said.
Hotch, who raised 11 children and five grandchildren, died Aug. 18 in Sitka Community Hospital Long-Term Care nursing home. At age 96, she left behind 143 descendants, her family said.
Daughter Dorothy Kraun of Palmer, who delivered the eulogy, after the service described her mother as quiet but determined.
“She had to be firm, with this many children. But that firmness helped us,” Kraun said. “We learned early how to cook and clean. We had our chores.”
Esther Louise Hotch was born Feb. 18, 1916 in Haines, the third of four children of Austin and Helen Louise Cranston. Hotch attended school in Haines and her early memories included holiday foot races with close friends Isabelle Katzeek and Edna Land.
She married Steve Hotch of Klukwan and the couple raised their children in a two-story log cabin with a wood cookstove. His parents’ bedroom was the only one in the house, said son Don “Bosh” Hotch. “There was no luxury for us growing up,” he said.
During summers, the couple packed their family into a 30-foot fishing boat and headed to Taku Inlet. Children were put anywhere they fit, Bosh Hotch said. Once, his parents discovered their daughter Ethel had fallen over the side, but was suspended there by a piece of hanging twine they’d tied to her as a precaution. “That twine held her while we were traveling,” he said.
Esther Hotch also worked the slime line at the Haines Packing Co. cannery at Letnikof and drove a van there from Klukwan when villagers made up much of the plant’s workforce.
Her family said Hotch enjoyed picking cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, and soapberries. “People were always calling her up for recipes for different jams and jellies,” said son-in-law Larry Sweet.
Hotch hunted moose with her husband Steve and friend Paul Wilson. She canned moose meat, made dry fish and hooligan oil, and harvested red sea ribbons, according to her family. A lifetime member of the Klukwan ANS Camp #8, Hotch also made a “Sisterhood Stew,” a delicious concoction that included corned beef and macaroni, Sweet said.
Besides a lilac bush and berry bushes, Hotch kept flower beds and hacked down alders that blocked the view from her home, Sweet said. “She loved to be able to see down the river. She was forever cutting down alders. She wasn’t afraid of hard work, that’s for sure.”
Hotch didn’t travel much, but she’d go anywhere to play bingo, Sweet said, and made it to Reno, Nevada a few times where she liked the slot machines. She also crocheted and baked pies to help fund travel of Klukwan’s basketball teams.
Hotch was preceded in death by husband Steve Hotch, Sr., sons Steve Hotch Jr., and Elmer Raymond Hotch, and by daughters Esther Victoria Otton and Josephine Peters.
She is also survived by daughters Helen Smith of Haines, Ethel Aguilar of Santa Rosa, Calif., Deborah Montgomery of Newport, Ore., Dorothy Kraun of Palmer, and Christine Sweet of Klukwan. She is survived by William Hotch of Klukwan and Donald Hotch Sr. of Klukwan.
Of the five grandsons Hotch raised, William Steven Peters, David Lawrence Peters, and Walter Leroy Peters preceded her in death. Edward Lee Hotch and Daniel Lloyd Peters live in Juneau.
Other family includes 42 grandchildren, 68 great-grandchildren, and 26 great-great grandchildren.
Hotch’s Tlingit name was Kaanta Seeyi. She was buried in Klukwan.