Betsy E. Sears

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Former Kenai resident Betsy E. (Sneesby) Sears died March 17, 2001, in Wasilla. She was 89.

A service in her memory will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the United Methodist Church in Chugiak. Graveside services will be held later at Anderson Cemetery in Stanwood, Wash., where she will be buried beside her husband.

Ms. Sears was the widow of Sterling S. Sears, who organized the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and for whom the Sterling S. Sears Elementary School in Kenai is named.

Born April 25, 1911, on a homestead farm near Chugwater, Wyo., she graduated from Chugwater High School in 1929. She went to college at Colorado State Teachers' College in Greeley, Colo., and at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Ms. Sears taught elementary school for 12 years in various towns in Wyoming and for one year in Pasco, Wash. She also taught Sunday school in the Methodist churches of the various communities in which she lived.

In 1937 she married Sterling S. Sears, who was the principal of the school in Rock River, Wyo., where she was teaching. In 1949, she and her husband and their two children drove the Alaska Highway and then wound up in Juneau, where he assumed the role as school superintendent and she worked for the Department of Vital Statistics.

Because of a law at that time which did not allow spouses to work for the same school district, Ms. Sears had to give up her public school teaching career. In Juneau, she reared her children, was actively involved in the community, and enjoyed boating with her family.

In 1964, the family moved to Kenai, where Mr. Sears had accepted the job of organizing and leading the newly created borough school district. While here, Ms. Sears was an active volunteer in the development of the Kenai Community Library. With Mr. Sears' retirement in 1968, they moved to Camano Island, Wash., where they built a home on a bluff overlooking Port Susan. During retirement, they made several motor home trips within the continental U.S.

Ms. Sears also enjoyed reading, sewing, gardening and working as a volunteer in the activities of the Methodist church. She always took an active interest in the world around her and was especially interested in U.S. and Alaska history.

"As her greatest joy in life came from being near, and caring for, her family, after Sterling's death in 1992, Betsy moved to the Chugiak Assisted Living Home in Chugiak so that she could be near her children and grandchildren," her family said.

During her first year there, she volunteered with the reading program in the primary grades at Chugiak Elementary. When her health began to fail in September 2000, she moved to Northstar Assisted Living in Wasilla.

Ms. Sears was preceded in death by her husband, Sterling, and siblings George Verne Sneesby, Roger Sneesby, Violet Schliske and Evelyn Sanders.

Ms. Sears is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Stanley E. and Alice Sears, of Eagle River, and their children Marlys and Sterling; daughter, Sharon S. Russell, of Palmer, and her children Todd and Tonya; stepson and daughter-in-law, Bob and Ruby Sears, of Seattle, Wash., and their children Douglas, Craig and Lisa. She is also survived by her brother and sister-in-law, Gene and Elsie Sneesby, of Casper, Wyo.; and by nieces, nephews and three great-grandchildren.

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