In this undated photo, Jacob and Maude Dubendorf stand with Rep. Don Young, center.
Photo provided by Dick and Nesha
Records for Kasilof cemetery begin in 1954. In 1957 the graveyard was christened Birchwood Memorial Park. The 11-member board of directors renamed it Spruce Grove Memorial Park in 1962. Perhaps the change came because the cemetery is not rich in birch. 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the Spruce Grove name.
Frankie Nordmeyer has a similar story. She was Frankie Brann until 1937, when she married August Nordmeyer. Her new name stuck for 62 anniversaries, until August passed away. He becomes only the second man presented in these features. The first was James Stryker, whose wife, Bertha, also joined the 90-candle-power pioneers. By fate, the men highlighted so far have both had wives who surpassed 90. Frankie is now 91. Since women are famous in kitchens, perhaps consistent cooking is the key ingredient for longevity?
August Nordmeyer (1905-1999) was born in Germany and was 4 years old when his parents immigrated to America. He lived in Nebraska and worked for the Burlington Railroad. A job accident in the 1930s threw him from a telegraph pole into the Republican River. Afterward, he was crippled up some, but went back to work for the railroad. He and Frankie visited Alaska in 1978 and 1980, moving to Kenai in 1981. Their daughter, Kathy, moved there simultaneously and their son, Lyle, moved to Sterling about 1986.
August accomplished several unique feats. At 93 years and 10 months, he may be the oldest man to reach Spruce Grove. Furthermore, Nordmeyer’s 62-year marriage is nearly as long as a rainbow and has the greatest span yet found among our longevity champions.
Maude Dubendorf was another pioneer who neared 100 years. She was born Maude Weller in 1910 in Pennsylvania. She graduated from the eighth grade and went to work. In 1934 Maude married fellow Pennsylvanian, Jacob Dubendorf (1905-1986). Their four children, James, Richard, Corrine and Carol, were also born in The Keystone State. When Jacob got a job at the nuclear energy site in Hanford, Wash. he moved his family nearby. There, he made friends with Chell Bear, Bill Stock and Paul Tachick. These friends all moved to Soldotna in 1951. Jacob returned and drove up with Richard in March. Maude and the girls flew up in May. (James had joined the Air Force).
Jacob worked for the Alaska Road Commission and Maude as a cook for Joe and Alice Scarintino. They leased the restaurant portion of Sky Bowl. At that time the restaurant often fed breakfast and packed lunches for 30-45 oil workers. About 1964 Ann Creary took over the Sky Bowl restaurant and Maude worked for her.
Ann’s son, Leo, said, “Maude was my favorite cook. People would come from as far away as Homer to have a dinner she prepared.”
Maude passed away in 2006, at 96. Dubendorf’s home has lived on. When Maude came it lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. Since Jacob passed away, their house has been a painting gallery, dog-grooming business, tattoo parlor and now pull-tabs are sold there.
This column was provided by Brent Johnson with the Kasilof Historical Society. Sources: Jan See, Spruce Grove Memorial Park clerk; Frankie Nordmeyer; Lyle Nordmeyer; Kathy Gardner; Richard and Nesha Dubendorf; Carol Kooly; Leo Creary; “Once Upon The Kenai” (3rd printing) p86, 324, 332 by the Kenai Historical Society, 1985; and “Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula: The Road We’ve Traveled,” p93 by the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association, 2002. Thanks to Sheila Lovett for providing e-mail communication with Dick and Nesha.
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