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Peer Work

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Katie Hurley Introduces Homesteaders in the Headlights
By Katie Hurley

Katie Hurley
The Harbeson family came to Alaska in 1954 when George Harbeson Sr. was hired to teach English at Wasilla High School. He was a dedicated teacher and favorite basketball coach, inspiring his students in and out of the classroom.

Turned down for medical reasons when he tried to volunteer to serve in the Army after Pearl Harbor, he was later drafted and served until he was discharged in December 1945. Thereafter, he attended teacher's college on the GI Bill, majored in English, and stayed an extra year to get his master's degree. 

When I moved to Wasilla in 1963, George was an active citizen and popular teacher, involved in community affairs and politics. One of my daughter's most vivid high school memories is of listening to Mr. Harbeson read aloud John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, and my son-in-law still recalls Mr. Harbeson's explanation of how the mill rate works. George Harbeson's life -- cut short at age 64 -- is the perfect illustration of how one person can make a difference in the life of a community.

 
About the Author: Former state Representative Katie Hurley’s record of public service in Alaska has spanned seven decades. A lifelong Alaskan, she has held many posts: among them, chief of staff for territorial Governor Ernest Gruening, Senate secretary for the territorial Legislature, chief clerk for the Alaska Constitutional Convention, and president of the State Board of Education under Governor William Egan. She was the first woman to win a statewide nomination for lieutenant governor and has served as executive director of the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women, as a member of the Alaska State Judiciary Council, and as chair of the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights.
 

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