Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Brouillette was dedicated volunteer

 

Harriet Brouillette

A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Saturday at the American Legion for Harriet Brouillette, a devoted mother and community volunteer who died at her daughter's home in Haines Thursday at age 82. She'd been suffering from dementia and throat cancer.

Harriet Mae Brouillette was born in Kake on March 6, 1931, the sixth of eight children of Willis and Lizzy Jackson. Like other village families, her family got by on subsistence fish, deer and garden vegetables. After grade school in Kake, Harriet entered Wrangell Institute, a school for Native children.

"She told us that when she arrived in Wrangell, the kids were all lined up and deloused. She said the process was scary and humiliating," said daughter Harriet Brouillette.

Brouillette finished high school at Mount Edgecumbe, where she chose a cooking curriculum. She was also on the high school basketball team. "She loved the game of basketball and was pleased to watch her grandchildren play," her daughter said.

Brouillette's father died while she was in high school. After completing school, she worked summers as a cannery cook in Kake and winters at the town's only grocery store to support her mother and sisters. The store's owners were so impressed with her work ethic they offered to sell her the store.

Brouillette met husband Charles Brouillette of Haines when he came to Kake as a teacher. They were married on her birthday in 1960. Charlie worked as a school teacher and he was moved to communities where they were needed, including Metlakatla and Tenakee, and in the Aleutian Islands. Although she had planned to start nursing school, Harriet embraced family life, her daughter said.

"Dad used to say that when he met mom, she wore pretty dresses. But she put them away when she got married. She jumped into being a housewife and mother without looking back. She gave up her dreams of a career to raise us."

The family moved back to Haines permanently in 1966, into the family house at 3 Mile Haines Highway where Harriet kept a large garden and raised her children, her daughter said. "She grew up poor, but wanted more for us. She spoiled us more than they could probably afford to. She raised everybody's kids at our house. The house was filled with kids and animals and lots of activity. She didn't even like animals, but she had all kinds of animals to take care of."

She also served as cook and bookkeeper at the American Legion and held leadership posts in the American Legion Auxiliary. She worked 16 years as cook at the Haines Senior Center. In her late 50s, Harriet attended two years of classes at Lummi Indian College in Washington state where her husband taught, earning the second-highest grades in the school.

Her mother liked to entertain, daughter Harriet said. "There were a lot of dinner parties at our house. Her specialties were chop suey and sweet and sour pork."

In her later years, Brouillette enjoyed travel. She was in San Francisco during the city's earthquake in 1989 and had a brush with the WTO rioters in Seattle in 1999. Also in Seattle, she and Charlie got stuck in one of the city's biggest snowstorms, driving a rented sports car. "When she traveled, she was like a magnet for trouble," joked daughter Judy Davis.

Lifelong friend Dorothy Willard recalled outings at Chilkat Pass with the Brouillettes picking blueberries and meals of Native foods Harriet would cook, including gumboots, boiled fish, black seaweed, eulachon and seal grease. "It was always so delicious."

Harriet was a sharp dresser and she and Charlie enjoyed nights out dancing, Willard said. "They knew how to enjoy themselves when they went out."

Brouillette is survived by sister Elaine Kadake of Kake; sons Robert Brouillette of Barrow and Albert Brouillette of Juneau; daughters Judy Davis of Seattle, Harriet Brouillette of Haines and Mary Brouillette of Seattle, and by seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by son Harry Brouillette of Haines and Kake and by three grandchildren.

The family is planning an Indian taco sale during the upcoming Dick Hotch basketball tournament to help defray burial expenses.