Almanac: Prominent Pomeroys — Distinguished peninsula pair leave large legacy

Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part story about the remarkable lives of Roxy and Harold Pomeroy. Two weeks ago, Part One introduced the Pomeroys, explaining how they met and came to live in Bear Cove near the head of Kachemak Bay. Last week, Part Two discussed their diverse early histories. This week, Part Three recounts their busy lives after they became married, including Harold’s service as the first chief administrator of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Photos courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives. Roxy and Harold Pomeroy in 1955, the year they got married.

Photos courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives. Roxy and Harold Pomeroy in 1955, the year they got married.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

In a padded crate in the garage of her Soldotna home, Dolly Farnsworth has a white marble headstone. Crate and headstone together weigh nearly 200 pounds, and soon the headstone will stand on a small wooded hill near Bear Cove as a tribute to one of Farnsworth’s great friends, Roxolana Eurydice (Skobelska) Pomeroy, who died on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008.

Farnsworth and her friend, former Alaska attorney general John Havelock, will transport the crate by boat this summer and deposit it on the beach at Bear Cove. There, they will employ one of their four-wheelers to pull a small trailer to the beach and haul the headstone up Pomeroy Road and onto the hill, where they will place it next to a similar white marble headstone that marks the remains of Roxy’s beloved husband, Harold Edward Pomeroy.

Harold Pomeroy as director of the Alaska Territorial Civil Defense in the mid-1950s.

Harold Pomeroy as director of the Alaska Territorial Civil Defense in the mid-1950s.

Harold died of a heart condition while napping on Oct. 1, 1983, just eight days shy of his 81st birthday. Roxy, who had been married to Harold since 1955, was just 59. She would live 24 more years without him.

By the time of Harold’s death, Bear Cove was more of a vacation destination than the home it had been in the 1950s, but Roxy continued her summer sojourns there as often as her health allowed. Each time Roxy came to Bear Cove, Farnsworth said, she made the quarter-mile walk up to visit Harold’s grave at least two or three times.

In the years just after his passing, she visited more frequently. She had planted flowers by the grave, and she often rose by 5 a.m. to carry water up the hill to keep them and Harold’s memory alive.

Despite the difference in their ages, Farnsworth said, the relationship between Roxy and Harold was “a perfect match.” Roxy’s only regret in loving Harold, Farnsworth said, was in losing him so soon.

“I think that’s why she died,” Farnsworth said. “I’m surprised she lived as long as she did because she was so much in love with him — and not to have him there. Oh, God, she missed him. That was love, I’ll tell you.”

Roxy Pomeroy at the Alaska Division of Lands in 1962, at about age 38, working for Roscoe Bell as a land law examiner.

Roxy Pomeroy at the Alaska Division of Lands in 1962, at about age 38, working for Roscoe Bell as a land law examiner.

By midsummer of 1949, Roxy and Harold — still married to his second wife, Floretta, who never joined him in Alaska — were among a handful of Bear Cove settlers trying to carve a home out of the brambly backcountry.

Together, according to Harold’s 1949 homesteading diary, they cut roadways and cleared land, stacked firewood and planted gardens. They also built work sheds and homes and greenhouses — even a bridge and a water tower. They started a sawmill operation to produce rough-cut lumber. They sold vegetables around Kachemak Bay. Surrounded by the ocean, the mountains and glaciers, they dug clams and shot wild game and worked cooperatively, regardless of weather and insects and other privations.

Harold’s diary is spartan in its details. Written in list form, it mostly delineates tasks and accomplishments, but occasionally a personal sensibility shines through. When Roxy’s large dog, Ruslan, arrived at the cove in mid-September, Harold noted, “Roxy so delighted she cried.” When he was ill for a couple of days, he wrote, “Roxy takes darned good care of me.” And about working with her, he said, “Roxy darned strong + swell.”

By the mid-1950s, their Bear Cove operation was flourishing. Harold’s wife asked him for a divorce, and in 1955 Harold married Roxy.

At about the same time, Harold—and then Roxy — began an ambitious career of public service that would cause the Pomeroys to move their home base first to Soldotna and later to Anchorage, always returning to Bear Cove each summer whenever possible.

Pomeroy campaigns for his second term of leading the Kenai Peninsula Borough, likely taken in 1966.

Pomeroy campaigns for his second term of leading the Kenai Peninsula Borough, likely taken in 1966.

From 1954 until 1958, Harold began making frequent trips to Juneau as the director of the Alaska Territorial Civil Defense agency. From 1962 until 1969, Roxy began making frequent trips to Anchorage as a land law examiner for the Alaska Division of Lands.

Because Roxy believed that Harold was traveling too much and working too hard to have time to read the news, she pored over each day’s paper and clipped the items she thought he should read. She placed the clippings in a folder, which sat waiting for him whenever he returned home. After Harold’s death, Roxy’s clipping habit continued, but she began mailing the articles to Farnsworth, instead.

In 1963, Harold was elected to be the first chairman (now mayor) of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the Pomeroys had a home built near the Kenai River in Soldotna. Farnsworth, who served on the early Borough Assembly, recalled that Pomeroy used his extensive political expertise to draft most of the initial resolutions that established the borough’s governmental methodology.

Harold ran for re-election in 1966 but lost to George Navarre by 87 votes.

He finished out the 1960s as the chief administrator for the city of Soldotna, and in 1967 he and Roxy assisted the Tolstoy Foundation in purchasing the land that became the Old Believer community of Nikolaevsk.

Roxy and Harold Pomeroy enact their own, Bear Cove version of Grant Wood’s famous painting, “American Gothic,” in 1975.

Roxy and Harold Pomeroy enact their own, Bear Cove version of Grant Wood’s famous painting, “American Gothic,” in 1975.

By the 1970s, the Pomeroys had moved to Anchorage, eschewing a rented apartment for a home of their own as they continued to diversify their work portfolios.

Roxy spent six years as a senior administrator for the McLaughlin Youth Center and in 1985 retired after a decade as the chief administrator for the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. She also worked on the gubernatorial campaigns of Arliss Sturgulewski, and after her retirement worked as a phone-answering volunteer at Providence Hospital.

Harold served as consultant for British Petroleum, and as a member of the Alaska Growth Policy Council, the state’s Agriculture Task Force, the Resource Development Council, and numerous other committees, task forces and advisory boards.

After Harold’s death, Roxy continued to live in Anchorage and visit their home in Bear Cove. But changes were inevitable.

When Roxy desired to set up a research fund in Harold’s name, Farnsworth offered to buy the Pomeroy property, with the stipulation that for Roxy a small cabin be constructed there in which she could live as long as she wished. A year after the 1984 sale, Roxy established the Harold E. Pomeroy Public Policy Research Endowment with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

The Pomeroys in 1982, a year before Harold died.

The Pomeroys in 1982, a year before Harold died.

In 2012, Havelock and Farnsworth, as the executrix of Roxy Pomeroy’s estate, placed an additional $288,000 into the endowment.

Farnsworth continues to own, and her family continues to enjoy, the old Pomeroy homestead, in addition to property she had bought there in the early 1960s. Havelock, too, vacations there, and both of them are looking forward to bringing closure to the saga of Harold and Roxy.

In 2008, after Roxy’s death, Havelock and Farnsworth scattered Roxy’s ashes over Harold’s grave. This summer, the placement of Roxy’s white marble headstone will leave the twin markers standing sentinel above the place that united them and the home they loved.

 

“Portrait of a Girl” is a 19th-century oil painting by Kornylo Ustyianowycz, a relative of Roxy Skobelsky. It is on display as part of the “Heirloom Treasures of Roxolana Skobelska Pomeroy” exhibit in the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago.

“Portrait of a Girl” is a 19th-century oil painting by Kornylo Ustyianowycz, a relative of Roxy Skobelsky. It is on display as part of the “Heirloom Treasures of Roxolana Skobelska Pomeroy” exhibit in the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago.

Picture this: Heirlooms yield artistic surprises

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

The treasures were astonishing, especially in such a rustic setting.

In 1949, when Roxy (Skobelska) Pomeroy first came to Bear Cove, waiting for her were crates of her family’s belongings — some of them unopened since they had fled the Ukraine ahead of the Communist advance in the late 1930s. In the early labor-intensive homesteading years at Bear Cove, the necessary work afforded little time to unpack these crates, and so some of them stood unopened in a storage building for nearly half a century.

When Pomeroy’s close friend, Dolly Farnsworth, finally helped her pry open the containers, they discovered a number of very old, high-quality oil paintings — 19th-century works, it turned out later.

They also turned out to be quite valuable.

And most of them had been painted by one of Roxy’s relatives.

“Portrait of Dr. Lev Skobelsky,” Roxy Skobelsky’s father, also is on display in the “Heirloom Treasures of Roxolana Skobelska Pomeroy” exhibit.

“Portrait of Dr. Lev Skobelsky,” Roxy Skobelsky’s father, also is on display in the “Heirloom Treasures of Roxolana Skobelska Pomeroy” exhibit.

Roxy’s mother, they learned later, was kin to two famous Ukrainian artists. She was the granddaughter of writer/poet Mykola Ustyianowycz, and the niece of the painter Kornylo Ustyianowycz. Several of the paintings in the crate had been made by Kornylo.

Although the artwork was undamaged by its long travels and the passage of time, Roxy had the paintings sent to San Francisco to be professionally cleaned and restored.

Afterward, she had hoped to send some of the priest-related paintings back to the Greek Orthodox Catholic church in which her father had served as pastor, but the ravages of the Communists and Nazis made her attempts fruitless, so she searched for other options.

Family friend and former Alaska attorney general John Havelock finally discovered the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago, the officials of which were thrilled to take the artwork (via the Pomeroy Portrait Trust) and make them part of an exhibit entitled the “The Heirloom Treasures of Roxolana Skobelska Pomeroy.”

2 Comments

Filed under Almanac, homesteaders, Kenai Peninsula Borough

2 responses to “Almanac: Prominent Pomeroys — Distinguished peninsula pair leave large legacy

  1. Pingback: Almanac: Prominent Pomeroys — Distinguished peninsula pair leave large legacy - The Redoubtreporter - Fun in Greece

  2. Jim

    Thanks for this wonderful story about two amazing people. It seems this would make for an equally great book.

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