NORTHWAY (AP) -- A dozen men -- some dressed in white shirts and ties and others in work shirts and jeans -- helped to bury Rosemarie Maher.
''Let me give you a break,'' was occasionally heard as the men lined up Saturday evening in the small Northway cemetery to shovel dirt onto the grave of Doyon Ltd.'s only woman president.
Once they finished, the men placed a purple and white painted wooden fence around the grave.
Longtime friend Orie Williams attached a homemade wooden cross -- painted with two irisis and etched with Maher's name and dates of birth and death -- to the head of the fence.
The women then joined the men and together they decorated Maher's grave with silk and real flowers.
Maher, who was 53, died July 6 after slipping into a coma after having a heart attack. She had been Doyon's president and CEO for only 18 months after 15 years as Doyon's board of director's chair.
About 75 people attended Maher's graveside service because the cemetery is accessible only by boat on Fish Camp Creek.
About 800 people, most of them Doyon shareholders from Interior villages, Fairbanks and Canada, attended her Northway funeral service Saturday afternoon.
Warren Westfall, one of Maher's sons, played the bass guitar with a four-piece band that led the singing of gospel hymns.
He also spoke at the service, telling the crowd he shared his mother with them, as she was often away from home on business trips.
''All my life my mom put you first,'' he said. ''I never held that against her.''
Westfall, who wore a chief's belt made of bone and glass beads that belonged to his mother, said he understood Maher's dedication to building Doyon, and, in turn, helping Alaska Native people.
''I'm not going to turn my back on my people either,'' he said.
Malinda Holmes, one of Maher's daughters, agreed with her brother.
''It was hard for us because she was so special,'' said Holmes, who wore a dentalium shell necklace that also belonged to her mother. ''But she believed in our people's success.''
Robin Renfroe, Doyon's vice president of administration, said Maher was proud of her family and Northway, a small community bordered by two rivers, several creeks and a multitude of ponds, near the Alaskan/Canadian border.
''She loved to go out and live on the land,'' Renfroe said. Maher understood the needs of rural Alaska because she lived there and brought her children up in her village, she said.
''She was a strong Alaska Native woman,'' Renfroe said. Doyon board members and other Doyon staff attended the funeral.
A potlatch dinner followed the burial. Native singing and dancing followed, ending with the family handing out gifts to the visitors, as is an Athabascan tradition. The Northway memorial potlatch for Maher lasted three days, ending Saturday night.
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