Nona C. died Dec. 31.
It’s a simple sentence that closes the book on a life of nearly 80 years. She was half Aleut and grew up in Kodiak, near the island home of St. Herman, a holy man and early Russian missionary to Alaska. Although she lived here in Portlandfor many years, her heart never departed from the ocean breezes and the sharp mountains of her Alaska home–or from St. Herman.
Nona crafted beautiful works with her hands. She made pysanky, Ukrainian-style Easter eggs painted with intricate designs, and she made beaded earrings and bags. She crocheted blankets that she donated to the church to benefit the church’s building fund.
I remember her white hair, her thoughtful manner. I don’t recall ever seeing her cranky or crusty, though she didn’t walk in a cloud of saccharine piety either. When she sat down at coffee hour, people of various ages gathered around her, because her conversation, even if it concerned the past, was rooted in the present. She remembered the American occupation of the Aleutian Islands during World War II, a blot on the history of the American military, and she remembered the internment of the Japanese, in spite of the fact that they had found only one Japanese spy.
Sometimes you know a person, even if not well, and the things you learn can’t be put into words, coming not by hearing as much as by seeing. Nona is like that for me. So I revise my original thought: it’s not the book that’s closed, but a page that turns, because Nona’s story goes on.