Sterling writer dies at 86

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Elsa Pedersen, a Sterling writer, historian and homesteader who wrote her own obituary, has died at 86.

Pedersen wrote 13 books of children's fiction, including ''Cook Inlet Decision,'' that was listed as a top children's book by The New York Times.

She died at her home Sunday.

Pedersen had been sick since suffering seizures on Sept. 25, though her illness was never specifically diagnosed, said daughter Kathleen Haley, her only child.

Pedersen's work was published in Alaska magazine and national publications. She also contributed columns about her life to the ''We Alaskans'' section of the Anchorage Daily News for many years, until 1995.

Elsa and her husband, Walt Pedersen, homesteaded in Sterling on Safin Lake, which Walt built by damming up a swamp. He died in 1998 after also writing his own obituary.

Elsa Pedersen's obituary says she ''lived happily for the rest of her life'' after marrying Walt and moving to Sterling.

She was born in Salt Lake City and came to Ketchikan with her first husband, Ted, Walt's half-brother. Ted and Elsa also homesteaded, but in a more isolated setting, at Bear Cove, at the head of Kachemak Bay.

In 1971, at age 56, Elsa left Ted, saying she could no longer stand the isolation. Walt and his first wife divorced that same year.

Walt and Elsa got to know each other when he started driving her around to her job talking to Peninsula schoolchildren about writing. They married in Seward in 1972.

They worked together on environmental clean-up on seismic roads in the Caribou Hills. They also worked on a home Walt designed, and collaborated on two histories of the Kenai Peninsula.

Elsa Pedersen's last book, completed several years ago, is due to be published before Christmas. Called ''Kachemak Bay Years,'' it is about life on the Bear Cove homestead.

Until her seizures, Pedersen had been walking a mile a day with her neighbor, Susan Gilbertson. When she became ill, she told her friends and family her time was up, Haley told the Anchorage Daily News.

Elsa and Walt's ashes will be mixed together and scattered on a slope of the Kenai Mountains and possibly also on the lake that Walt created, Haley said. No services are planned.



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