Mary Louise Rasmuson dies at 101

Mary Louise Rasmuson. (Photo courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation)

Mary Louise Rasmuson, one of Alaska’s most well-known women, died in her home yesterday in Anchorage. She was 101.

Rasmuson was a fixture in Alaska arts and history as one of the state’s most generous supporters of arts, education, history, culture and science.

She championed the effort to establish the Anchorage Museum of Art and History in 1968.

Before coming to Alaska, Rasmuson was an assistant principal in Pittsburgh, PA. She left that position to become a member of the Women’s Army Corp when the U.S. joined World War II. She eventually became the fifth commandant of the WAC in 1957.

According to the Rasmuson Foundation, military historians credit her with major achievements including increasing the WAC’s strength, insisting on effectiveness in command, working with Congress to amend laws that deprived women of service credit and benefits, and expanding the range of military opportunities open to women.

Many point to Rasmuson as a champion for women. She served in the military for 20 years. She received a Legion of Merit award with two oak leaf clusters for her work integrating black women into the WAC. She was also awarded the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Occupation Medal and National Defense Medal. At an event honoring her, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “When you hear about women seizing new opportunities to serve, remember that they march behind Colonel Rasmuson.”

Mary Louise Rasmuson. (Photo courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation)

Rasmuson moved to Alaska in 1962 after marrying Elmer Rasmuson, then chairman of National Bank of Alaska.

She was active in a number of organizations in Alaska. In 2009, she was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.

According to the Rasmuson Foundation, Mrs. Rasmuson remained active with many organizations and most recently had been serving as honorary chair and patron of the Veterans’ Memorial Project.  She has also served on the national board of American Cancer Society, U.S. Army Alaska Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and led the Anchorage March of Dimes Campaign. She was affiliated with Zonta, American Association of University Women, Alaska Native Sisterhood, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Virginia Mason Board of Governors, Palm Springs Desert Museum and Seattle Art Museum, amongst many others. She was a lifetime member of Association of U.S. Army and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The family has invited everyone to the funeral mass, Sept. 1o at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK, 99501.