Skagway character Barbara Kalen dies at age 86

One of Southeast Alaska’s lifelong art enthusiasts has passed away. Barbara Kalen suffered a heart attack at her Skagway home Tuesday night. She was 86 years old.

Kalen was born in Skagway and spent all of her life there, save for one year of high school in California, vacations to the lower 48, and international trips to Iceland, the Galapagos and the Panama Canal. She helped reforest an area in Iceland from lodge pole pine seeds she collected in Skagway,

In the late 1980s, she took over management of Dedman’s Photo, which her mother had started in the early 1920s. She was the registered historian for the Klondike highway project, and a decades-long news stringer for publications in Fairbanks, Juneau, Whitehorse and Anchorage.

Kalen was a photographer, writer, musician, storyteller, gardener, and local legend. She’s well remembered for her dedication to the arts — music, in particular. She tried not to miss an Alaska Folk Festival and participated in numerous Juneau Lyric Opera festivals as well as other music events in the capital city.

Kalen founded the Skagway Arts Council in 1974 and was director until three years ago. About five years ago, she received an award from the Alaska State Legislature for her work in the arts.

Kalen also was fiercely interested in politics. She remained a staunch opponent to a road between Juneau and Skagway.

Memorial services are tentatively planned for next June, when more family and friends are in Skagway.