By Gretchen Wehmhoff

As we approach the season we pair with warm fires, full wine glasses and good company, I’ve been looking back at the chaos and the treasures of 2020.

Melinda and I jumped into the local news business just as the world became unstably united. Not united in peace, but in a battle for life. It wasn’t quite the alien ships from Indepence Day, but it might as well have been. Countries around the world worked to secure their populations and economy from the deadly coronavirus, COVID-19. Information was shared through international scientists, mathematicians and medical specialists. 

What worked and didn’t work crossed headlines and every day citizens became our frontline, working to keep our nation moving. From grocery clerks to nurses, first responders to infrastructure support services, we all looked to them to provide any sense of normalcy they could. Food and vital services were delivered by underpaid, underappreciated Americans who stayed at work while the rest of us hunkered safely in our homes.

I look back at the chaos and am grateful for those bright spots of resilience. I want to share some personal gratuities.

In my world this year, I am thankful for Larry Persily, who took a chance on two determined women to carry on the legacy of a small town Alaska newspaper. He gave us all we needed and more to be successful — most importantly, his faith in us.

I’m grateful for Katie Kollasch who worked for years at The Skagway News, often the only person holding things together through changes in owners and editors. She was organized and welcoming, showing us all we needed and gracefully letting us into her world.

Having the blessing and support of Jeff Brady is priceless. After all, the paper started as his baby and his advice and knowledge made things a bit easier.

Skagway accepted us with open arms and gave us a chance. While we sometimes stumble, it is the kind words, great conversations and willingness to share that tells us this is the best job ever — never mind the salary sailed away with the cruise ships.

And I want to thank Melinda for her faith in me to say, “Let’s do this.”

We had already taken on a few challenges together such as driving from Tacoma to Anchorage in the dark for five days. We figure we can beat any test of endurance. 

I was apologizing one day for not completing a story or letter, or something. She reminded me that she was confident we were both doing the best we could with our personal challenges. She also said that passing judgement on each other would make it near impossible to work together.

So, I am grateful for Melinda. She is the perfect, capable, intelligent business partner. I can’t imagine a better person to jump off a cliff with.

Perhaps I am most grateful for my family. My sister and brother who endure heartburn and stress everytime I get in a car for another adventure across the Yukon in the winter to do a crazy thing like run for public office or become a newspaper owner. When I make it, they are proud of me. What more can I ask?

My siblings, aunts, cousins and my sister’s mother-in-law all bought subscriptions to a newspaper thousands of miles away — and they even read it

Most importantly, I am grateful for my husband who glides beside me as we both take strange turns. He may work on a crab boat in Norton Sound or a fishing boat in Bristol Bay while I fill my life with debates, interviews and now a newspaper that literally takes me from home for six weeks at a time. He’s always there, ready to cook, put up campaign signs, love my family, pack my car and allow me to take our dog to live 800 miles away. He loves me and for that, I am grateful.