Soldotna pioneer took great pride in city, education

Dear Mark Dixson,

It was a great pleasure to make your acquaintance this past week in your capacity as City Manager of Soldotna. Welcome to our awesome community! Many of us old-timers are absolutely convinced that we won “life’s lottery” when we were blessed to claim the Kenai Peninsula as our home. I hope that in time you also grow to cherish our community in the same way.

I enjoyed very much sharing with you the history of the Ed and Mae Ciechanski Scholarship Fund entrusted to the City of Soldotna for safe keeping. Ed and Mae were gritty Alaska pioneers who paved the way for those of us who followed in their footsteps. Mae grew up an impoverished orphan and Ed was challenged with facial disfigurement and a severe speech impediment. Neither of them let those impediments stand in the way of their dreams. Those life challenges along with the burdens of early homesteading made for some hearty folks. We all owe Ed and Mae, as well as our other homesteader-pioneers, a deep debt of gratitude for their contributions to our community.

Mae had a fierce loyalty to the City of Soldotna and was absolutely insistent that Soldotna be the guardian of the Ciechanski Scholarship Fund — one of the largest in the State of Alaska. She left no doubt as to her intentions and deeply resented those who thought they should tell the Ciechanskis where to fund their scholarship which, after all, was the Ciechanski’s money and which had resulted from their hard earned efforts not the efforts of others. Mae believed that education (trades school or otherwise) was the key to life’s success and her goal was to give a “booster” shot to as many young folks as she could through the scholarship Ed and she set up.

Mae was a “feisty” lady and she spoke her mind with great clarity. I was Mae’s attorney from 1976 until her passing. She took me to the “woodshed” many times over the course of those many years — sometimes deservedly and sometimes not so much. But from each “trip” I learned something from he experience. Two of the more valuable lessons I learned from Mae were to “buck up” when life throws you a curve and, secondly, do your home work before you cast a stone. As Mae used to say — there is usually “Paul Harvey’s rest of the story”!

Mae would have liked you and she would greatly appreciate your interest in the Ciechanski scholarship fund. On behalf of Ed and Mae, thank you for taking the time to “check in” on the status of their treasured scholarship fund. And as always, thanks to the City of Soldotna for carrying out the wishes of two of our grand pioneers. Finally, Mark, if Mae were here she undoubtedly would say to your — “Buck up” young man one day “the rest of the story will become evident.”

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