Friends and family gathered at a graveside service for Robin Penwell Friday, June 28, at Jones Point Cemetery. Penwell, 51, died at home of cancer June 23 with partner Yngve Olsson and their twin daughter and son, Tailer and Trever, 12, at her side.
Carol Waldo, who officiated, said: “Robin was a dependable friend, a caring woman and a loving mom.”
Penwell bore two sets of fraternal twins and had another son from a previous marriage. “She did well with twins. It came natural to her,” Yngve said. “She was easy to get to know, and easy to live with. She was real personable.”
Retired teacher Kate Saunders befriended Penwell after she moved to Haines about 17 years ago from Homestead, Fla. A son was in Saunders’ sixth-grade classroom and Penwell, who was quiet and had a good sense of humor, quickly became a trusted volunteer.
“She was so dependable. I’d usually see her at school once or twice a day,” Saunders said. As their friendship grew, Saunders relied on Penwell for sound advice. “I could count on Robin to be the friend who’d tell me what she really thought and I so appreciated that.”
When a previous marriage broke up, Penwell stayed in Haines, working as head housekeeper and waitress at the Hotel Halsingland. “She did everything, really. She really liked working there,” Olsson said. After she and Yngve got together about 14 years ago, Penwell managed his former business, the Mountain View Motel.
After the motel sold six years ago, Penwell concentrated full-time on their young twins, including volunteering most days at their school. “She was interested in what her kids were doing,” Saunders said. When Penwell’s daughter wanted to become a volunteer raptor handler at the American Bald Eagle Foundation, Penwell took the 12-week class with her.
Penwell and Saunders and their daughters also were part of the crew that helped care for abandoned horses two winters ago, even though Penwell was afraid of them. “Robin was terrified, but very supportive, and she watched us from the car,” Saunders said.
Penwell was born Feb. 12, 1962 in Homestead, Fla., the oldest of Roger and Joann Penwell’s three children. The military family lived abroad and in several states, as well as in Fairbanks, Olsson said, though Homestead was home. After high school she married and raised a son, John Maas, and a twin son and daughter, Michael and Margaret Maas. Margaret died in a car accident at age 14.
Penwell is survived by Yngve and children Trever and Tailer Olsson of Haines; sons John and Michael Maas of Fairbanks; parents Roger and Joann Penwell and siblings Roger Penwell Jr. and Dawn Marie Taylor, all of Ray, Ohio; and four nieces and nephews.
Yngve said he’s hoping to take the children to Disneyland next winter and to visit their grandparents in Ohio. “Robin didn’t fly, and it’s a long drive, so we’ve never been.”
Donations in Penwell’s memory can be made to the Haines volunteer ambulance crew, P.O. Box 849, Haines, AK 99827.