Lorena Gloria Mills Engstrom
Lorena was born in Deering, a small village on the Northern shore of the Seward Peninsula. Her father was a full blood Eskimo but her mother was only half. Her mother’s father came North with a group of men from Boston in search of gold. He was the only one that stayed. He married an Eskimo woman from Kiana. She had Lorena’s mother, Kituk, on a river bar near the village. She was premature — so tiny she fit in a shoe box. The mother thought she should be allowed to die but the father said no. And named her Annie. She lived to be 102. Lorena was her only girl among five brothers.
Annie relied on Lorena to help raise the boys. But Lorena was an intelligent, well-read, young lady with ambitions of her own. There was no high school in Deering in those days, so she begged her mother to go to Mt. Edgecumbe. Finally, she agreed. Lorena attended school in White Mountain and later in Sitka. It was six years before she went home for a visit.
After high school, Lorena and a friend, Maya, decided to visit California. After helping raise her siblings it was a good break. Later she would marry, but it wasn’t a happy marriage.
The next move was to Nome along with the husband and two children, Cheryl and Scott. In Nome she would have Linda and divorced the husband soon after. She said: long overdue.
In Nome, Lorena could easily find work. Her best job was with the B.I.A. She did everything required but not allowed to be in charge since she was an Eskimo. The early 1960s were a different time everywhere including Nome. Interracial marriages were not accepted.
Lorena and Ron formally met at a party. They were perfect for each other except six years’ difference in age. Ron didn’t care but Lorena did and wouldn’t marry him. By now Lorena was working for the BIA in Kotzebue. Ron had a little plane and would fly up every weekend to visit her. After having several close calls, he told her she better marry him or he might crash. That did the trick!
They were married in the Friends Church on June 15, 1963. They didn’t have a place to live so they had to move to the Engstrom Mine with Ron’s parents, Herb and Elsie Engstrom. It was the start of a long friendship. Any bad feelings Herb had disappeared after getting to know Lorena and especially her little girl, Linda.
Lorena loved to travel. She and Ron took many trips via planes, trains and automobiles to visit friends and family throughout the western U.S., Hawaii and Mexico. They also spent their summers at their beautiful camp at Basin Creek, where Lorena enjoyed identifying birds, picking berries and reading.
Ron and Lorena had a wonderful and interesting life together. Their marriage brought Janice and Ronna into the Engstrom family and later, granddaughter Ellie. They were in love with each other to the end.