Pam Randles died peacefully at home on Christmas Eve morning. She was 79 and had Parkinson’s Disease. “The Nine Lessons and Carols service from King’s College Cambridge was playing,” said daughter Amanda Randles. It was a family tradition.
Randles taught in Alaska Bush villages and with the Peace Corps in several countries. “Mom cared deeply about human rights. She loved to read and was really into physics. That was her pleasure: reading. She was a sucker for a good cup of coffee and had a great sense of humor,” her daughter said.
Randles came to Haines in the late 1990s to finish up her teaching career and stayed. “She loved the bears at Chilkoot and that Haines was scientifically unique as a flyway for migratory birds and a place where the continental plates smashed together,” her daughter said. Randles taught junior high and high school science, worked for the Takshanuk Watershed Council and Alaska Nature Tours, and volunteered with the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation. She was a serious birder and gave regular bird talks on KHNS.
Alaska Nature Tours owner Dan Egolf praised Randles’ energy, curiosity and professionalism. Randles worked with him for 16 years until her health declined. “Pam was the epitome of the naturalist,” he said. She collected years of data on everything from the first blooming tulip and robin sighting in the spring to the comings and goings of the bears at Chilkoot. “As a company we keep detailed seasonal wildlife and weather logs, but Pam had her own notebook with her all the time. She was a true scientist and a gifted teacher,” Egolf said. She banded birds, counted eagles and wrote the informational signs at Chilkoot, designed a local birding website, and created unique tours that added to the understanding of the region’s flora and fauna, he said.
Randles sang in choirs, played several instruments, co-wrote and produced “The Strange Fate of the Clara Nevada,” a play based on a historic Lynn Canal shipwreck with Dan Henry, volunteered for the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association and served on the vestry of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.
Pamela Himsworth was born on Dec 12, 1944 in Manhattan, N.Y. to Carolyn (Smith) and Edward Himsworth while her father, who was born in Ireland, served in the U.S. Navy there. Her mother was from a pioneering California family. When she was four her parents separated and she grew up in Palo Alto where her mother was a secretary at Stanford University. She graduated from Cubberley High in 1962, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Berkeley, followed by a master’s degree in biology from Stanford. Later, she earned a master’s degree in science education from the University of Alaska.
At Berkeley, she was involved in the free speech, anti-war and civil rights movements. “She had an FBI record which noted that she was ‘noisy but harmless,’” her daughter said. “Mom was unhappy about that. ‘I’m not harmless,’ she said.”
Randles came to Alaska with a boyfriend who didn’t stay. She met Anchorage Daily News columnist Slim Randles in Girdwood. They married and homesteaded outside of Talkeetna at Trinity Creek, which was accessed by the Alaska Railroad. She and Slim were involved in the early days of the Iditarod as mushers and volunteers. He broke his foot and didn’t finish, she worked at race headquarters and as a reporter on the trail. The Randles owned a small paper, the Susitna Valley Chronicle, where Randles did everything from writing and photography to hand-inking headlines. The marriage ended when their daughter was young. Randles earned a teaching certificate and taught in Anvik, Nikolai, Shageluk and Point Lay.
As soon as Amanda turned 18, Randles joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Nepal for two years and stayed three or four more as an educator and trainer. To celebrate her 50th birthday, she bought a caged parrot in Kathmandu and set it free.
While living in Haines, in between her other jobs, Randles spent three to six months a year working for the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. She was on a team of teachers invited to help design schools for girls in Qatar, along with Mary Asper. “Pam was amazing. She was so open about a culture, what the culture needed and how to intersect that culture with educational theory and systems,” Asper said.
In addition to Amanda, Randles leaves foster daughters Flora Samuelson and Nancy Esai; grandchildren Gina Randles, Riyan Stossel and Dominic Stossel; great grandchildren Grace Comstock and Leslie Whittington, and siblings James Himsworth and Holly McCallum.
There will be a potluck and public memorial on Feb. 2 at Harriett Hall at 5 p.m. People are invited to bring a dish to share, and bring an instrument if they’d like to join a music circle. A full family service will be held in April.
Memorial donations may be made to the Takshanuk Watershed Council at Takshanuk.org or HC 60 Box 2008, Haines, AK 99827.
This story has been updated with changes to the planned potluck and memorial service.