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

Former mayor, clerk Van Winkle dies at 68


Sharan Van Winkle

Former Haines Borough Mayor, assembly member and borough clerk Sharan Van Winkle died of complications of liver disease July 1 at Avera Maryhouse Nursing Home in Pierre, S.D. She was 68.

Van Winkle was born in Seattle to Gordon "Bill" and Malinda "Linda" Jones on Sept. 5, 1947. She grew up in the Seattle area, graduating from Nathan Hale High School in 1965.

She moved to Ketchikan and met Ron Van Winkle at the Arctic Bar. Six months later he hired her as the cook on a tow boat, the Dean Foss. The two were married on March 28, 1975, and spent the next 20 years in Ketchikan, Sterling and Haines.

The family moved to Haines in 1985.

Van Winkle's family said she worked as a homemaker and bookkeeper, dabbled in real estate and insurance, and worked as borough clerk in Haines before being elected Mayor in 1992.

She topped three other mayoral candidates to win the borough's top job, then served two years of a three-year term before resigning, citing ill health caused by the stress of the position.

"She was struggling quite a bit," said former borough Mayor Carl Lehman, who replaced Van Winkle in a 1994 special election. "At that time, there were a number of factions that were giving her difficulties. I bumped into them, too."

Van Winkle took a punch to the head in an infamous barroom brawl in January 1993 at the Harbor Bar. The fight involved about 15 patrons, including Ron Van Winkle, who Sharan said she was trying to get out of the bar when she was hit by a stray blow.

Colleen Bausch was a neighbor to Van Winkle for several years on Helms Loop Road. "She was a real, true friend," Bausch said. "She would give you the shirt off her back if she could. She was always there if she was needed."

In July 1995, Sharan and Ron moved south, making their final home together in Fort Pierre, S.D.

Van Winkle's favorite activities included quilting and crocheting blankets, completing jigsaw puzzles, gardening, attending and working at the local horseraces, camping and fishing, according to family members.  

She was also a proud and passionate fan of the Duke Blue Devils, rarely missing a televised game. Sharan and Ron enjoyed socializing with friends and family, especially when it came to celebrating the Fourth of July.

Sharan is survived by her husband Ron; daughter Vera and husband Travis Tipton and their children Campbell, Connelly, Autumn, Jovie, Ciara, and Cienna of Pierre; daughter Lena and husband Troy Buschbom and their daughter Marena of Pierre; sister Carol Ericson of Vancouver, Wash .; and numerous nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents Bill and Linda, and by son-in-law Shane Cronin.

At Sharan's request, no memorial service was held.

Cards can be directed to Feigum Funeral Home, 808 W. Pleasant Drive, Pierre, S.D., 57501. Condolences may also be conveyed online at


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