Fill a niche: Sterling woman proves it's never too late to chase a dream

Posted: Friday, March 19, 2010

At 60 years of age, Denniece, "Miss Dee Dee," Lofgren, and her husband, William, are living the pioneers' dream in Alaska in a somewhat less than usual kind of way.

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James Cullen Baisden listens as Denniece Lofgren gives him instructions in a pottery class for youth Thursday afternoon at the Kenai Fine Arts Center. Lofgren, at 60, is working on her Associates in Applied Science degree in human services at Kenai Peninsula College and has started a nonprofit to teach arts classes.

Sure, she meets the classic Alaska definition of pioneer. Lofgren said her modest home in Sterling is built from "10 trees," and lacks a few of the more, shall we say, modern amenities, but it's what she's trying to do that really qualifies her as a pioneer.

Throwing tradition to the wind, Lofgren is pursuing higher education when most her age are looking to retirement, and trying to pass on her love of art to children and the economically disadvantaged.

"I'm full of energy, I'm just made that way, I just want to do this until I die," she said. "I love kids, I love seeing their faces and my dream is for them to become self-confident and have enough self-esteem."

At the same time as her second oldest son will earn his degree at a school in the Lower 48, Lofgren will graduate with an Associates of Applied Science degree in human services from Kenai Peninsula College this May.

While working on her degree, Lofgren has launched a non-profit, Miss Dee Dee's Art Class, to teach arts classes to kindergartners through sixth-graders around the central Peninsula. She's also in the process of launching another to provide supplies to the economically disadvantaged.

For the better part of the last six decades Lofgren has been working temporary clerical jobs and raising her three now grown children.

In 1997 she and her husband headed northward from Chico, Calif. and for five years she worked for the state.

Then they decided to stop just going on camping trips to the Peninsula and moved here.

"Our income plummeted from $60,000 to $20,000 a year," she said. "There's no jobs here."

That was no matter.

"We love it here, we're really carving out or own niche," she said. "We anted to be a part of the community."

Lofgren said her husband ultimately found work driving a truck for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

And like all pioneers, Lofgren has a plot of land with a dream. She said she spent her "last $2,000" on a plot of land where she wants to build a small studio to teach her classes.

"I would like to have classes through the school year but I don't know how to do all of this or how to pay for it," she said. "But that's my dream."

She said one day she might even like to offer art therapy.

Lofgren was working with a small group of kids on Thursday in the Kenai Fine Arts Center, helping them make beads and emblems made of clay for necklaces.

While the process was largely an independent one, she cycled around the table offering compliments, tips and motivation if a student became discouraged.

"It's been wonderful for us, in a big city you don't get to do this," she said.

For more information on Lofgren's classes or to donate supplies contact her at 262-6312.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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