By DAN FOX
A tribute to a much-respected Skagway community leader has been reinstated at the Skagway School District.
By a proclamation made by Former Mayor John Mielke, the first day of school each year is Ralph Tronrud Day, named for a man who spent 15 years on the Skagway School Board and countless hours working for the children of the community.
The Skagway School district revived this tradition on Thursday, Aug. 16, with a special assembly dedicated to the memory of Ralph.
“When Ralph died 20 years ago, he was pretty young, but he worked hard and he loved it here,” John Tronrud, Ralph’s brother, told all the students gathered at the assembly. “I’m proud to stand here today to remind you that there are people out there that love you and want the best education and life possible for you.”
Mielke’s 1998 proclamation called out Ralph’s “can do spirit,” stating that he distinguished himself as a pillar in both Skagway and throughout Alaska.
School Board Member Jaime Bricker – John’s daughter and Ralph’s niece – said Ralph’s daughter, one son and two sisters had planned to attend the assembly, but couldn’t make it in time.
The ordeal was live-streamed to the family, however, and Jaime said those members of the Tronrud clan would still be coming to Skagway for the Aug. 26 memorial of Ralph’s brother-in-law, Bill Hunz (See Page 8).
John said that Ralph and Hunz had helped him find a place to live when he’d first come to Skagway 45 years ago.
“I came up to Skagway for a summer job just after graduating high school, and was just going to be here for the summer, which I was, but I left and it wasn’t three months later I came back,” John said.
John also told the students gathered about how he had drove the cement mixer that filled in the floor in the school gym.
“And the reason I mention that is that Ralph and the other school board members worked really hard to get funding from the state of Alaska to build this new school,” John said. “The old one was small and falling apart, and it was eventually demolished.”
Ralph, originally born in 1950 in Billings, Montana, came to Skagway in 1970. He was a member of Elks Lodge #431 and volunteered with the Boy Scouts and other community groups.
“He was heavily involved in the Elks club,” Bricker said. “Even back then the Elks was very supportive of Skagway School and the education and sports components of things.” Ralph helped design and implement a fish hatchery, which was run by students in the school when it was active.
Before starting his own business, Ralph worked for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, the Westmark Hotel and the Alaska Marine Highway System.
He passed away on June 18, 1998, and an obituary spanning three pages in The Skagway News was packed full of loved ones, locals and even state politicians sharing memories and recalling stories about Ralph.
“He was fun-loving and goofy,” Bricker said.
“He was a great dad, a great uncle…a great fisherman,” she added, laughing.