Kindness and generosity defined Hales
October 18, 2018
Long time resident Edna Hales, 88, died peacefully at her daughter Rebecca Heaton's home on Oct. 2 following a brief illness. Her children had cared for her for about three years following a fall and a stroke.
"She was my best friend," Heaton said. "We did things together every day. I miss that most of all." "Kindness and generosity were in my mother's nature," son Wendel Hales said, though she always credited her Christian faith for her inspiration. "She would do things because 'scripture says to,'" from baking muffins to "feeding the hungry" to caring for a housebound elder.
Friend Aleta Adkins said that while Hales never had many "worldly goods," she shared what she had with others. "If Edna had one coat, and you needed it, she'd give it to you. She had very good character."
Hales didn't get a driver's license until she was in her 40s. A social person, she regularly hitchhiked to town from her then off-the-grid Lutak home. Once she could drive, Hales fell in love with the open road. She volunteered as a cabbie for her friends and anyone who needed a ride in exchange for gas money. She drove friends around town, to Klukwan, Whitehorse, and all the way to Seattle and beyond. "I don't know how many times she drove the Alcan Highway," Heaton said.
Hales drove at a "snail's pace," son Evan Hales said. Once near Seattle, with him riding shotgun, she passed a "Slow to 35 mph" sign and asked what it meant. He replied, "To you, Ma, not a darned thing." Her children say Hales loved that joke, and asked to hear it often. Her self-effacing manner extended to her appearance. When people commented on her beauty she was surprised and assumed it was a case of mistaken identity, her daughter said.
Edna Mae Smith was born Sept. 29, 1930 to Emma Grace (Carpenter) and Preston Smith of Eldred, Penn. Her father was an oilman, and her mother had been a maid in his family home. She had two older brothers, Roy and Wesley, and an older sister, Eleanor, who survive her. Younger sister Martha preceded her in death. The family moved to California when Hales was 13, and she graduated from high school in Altadena. She put herself through college working at Bell Telephone. She became a teacher at 24, and met husband George Hales while boarding at his mother's house during her first teaching assignment in Death Valley. They married on Dec. 23, 1954 in Pasadena at the Chapel of Roses. He became a teacher as well, and in 1962 they moved to Skagway to teach with three children, Dwight, Wendel, and Rebecca in tow. Their fourth child, Evan, was born in Skagway. Hales became a full-time homemaker, and the family moved around as her husband taught in Togiak, Hydaburg, Worsley, Alberta, and lastly in Montana. There Edna became active in the Nazarene Church. Her husband missed Alaska, and the family moved in 1974 one more time, to Haines "on faith," Rebecca Heaton said. The Hales' rode on the maiden voyage of the M/V Columbia and George landed a job on the boat working for the ferry system until his retirement. He died in 2014.
In Haines, Edna joined the Presbyterian Church and was active in the Haines Woman's Club.
When health issues curtailed her mobility a few years ago, her children retrofitted a handicap- accessible bus by removing the seats and adding a hospital bed and a bucket car seat. To the end, "Mother loved taking rides," Heaton said. Her sons drove Hales to Idaho for the total eclipse of the sun two summers ago, and this summer she enjoyed a month-long road trip with them down the West Coast and back.
Edna Hales leaves her four siblings, four children-Rebecca Heaton, Wendel Hales and Evan Hales in Haines, Dwight Hales in Nenana, and two grandsons.
Memorial donations may be made to the Haines Ministerial Association.