A celebration of the life of Amanda Wilder Charles, 26, will be held 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Haines ANB Hall.
Charles died at home in Anchorage early on March 31, shocking friends and family. The cause has yet to be determined, though her mother, Sandy Balloch, said she suspects a stroke. An autopsy will be conducted.
“She was fine. I just spoke to her on the phone. We were giggling and talking about the Easter baskets she was making. We spoke every night and never hung up without telling each other, ‘I love you.’ I’m getting on in years, so I wanted to be sure she had no regrets. I never thought she’d leave me,” Balloch said.
Amanda Lucille Wilder was born July 3, 1986, in Atlanta and raised nearby. She moved to Haines in 1999 with parents Sandy Balloch and Harold Wilder, older sister Heather, and the extended Balloch family. Wilder’s father was a cook at the Bamboo Room. Her mother, a homemaker, did volunteer work.
Charles attended Haines schools, where she was a cheerleader. She also worked several jobs. She earned her GED after completing her junior year.
“Amanda worked as soon as she was allowed to. My grandpa gave her a job when she was 14 at Grizzly Greg’s. She was so spunky and caring we all fell in love with her,” said friend Jeanette Baker. Charles also worked at Howsers and Delta Western.
She left Haines a few years ago to receive on-the-job training at the Gastineau Human Services’ correctional halfway house in Juneau where a supervisor said she was well-liked, caring, and advanced quickly. She met her husband, Clifford Charles, there. They became friends and after four years together were married in their Anchorage living room on Dec. 21. “They were very much in love. She was happy from the start,” Balloch said. About a year ago they moved to Anchorage and Amanda became an administrative assistant at another halfway house, Parkview Center.
“I can’t say enough about Amanda’s giving, dependable personality. She was a light that shined on all of us. There wasn’t a person that didn’t like her and that’s rare in this kind of work,” said Tamara Childs, the director of Parkview.
She praised Charles for taking charge of a food distribution system during a challenging transition with meal providers. “Her job description was 9 to 5 but she came in at 5:30 in the morning to make sure the food was picked for our guys – a lot of them are confined to the building, so that was huge.”
She said Charles had a gift for her work. “Not everybody is cut out for this kind of job, especially a woman. She was a strong-willed woman, but she stayed bubbly and even-keeled and didn’t bend the rules,” Childs said.
Krystal Lloyd of Haines said Charles was the kind of person who came into a room as a stranger and left as family. “She would walk in your house and cook for you, help you clean, and then watch your kids. Her masterpiece was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and mac and cheese.”
Amanda Charles’ father preceded her death three months ago. She leaves her newlywed husband, Clifford Charles and the Hoff-Charles family. She had a large family that included eight aunts, an uncle and many cousins, nieces, and nephews; her mother Sandra Balloch, sister Heather Balloch Weekly, and niece Megan Dees, all of Yermo, Calif.; local nephews Adam and Stephen Balloch, and Thomas Balloch of Fairbanks.