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Irene Sherman’s Way: Old sign gets new life at Fairbanks Community Museum

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 5:12 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -A sign pulled out of the muck from under the Steese Bridge is getting a new life at the Fairbanks Community and Dog Mushing Museum

Saturday afternoon, Johnanthan “Johnny” Johnson and some of his family members gifted a sign that said “IRENES WAY” to the museum after the museum docent, Karen Norris, expressed she had been looking for it.

Jonathan Johnson pulled this sign out from under the Steese Bridge. He believes it belonged to...
Jonathan Johnson pulled this sign out from under the Steese Bridge. He believes it belonged to Irene Sherman, a pioneer of Fairbanks who died in 1995.(Sarah Hollister)

Johnson had found the sign during a “magnet” fishing outing and knew it was something special.

“Well when I first pulled it out of the water and figured out what it actually was and what it stood for... it has got to go to the rightful owner, the rightful place.” Johnson said.

Norris’ eyes widen as Johnson handed her the wrapped sign. She had contacted him minutes after she saw the news report that he had found it under the Steese Bridge.

“I jumped off my couch and was doing the happy dance!” Norris said. “It’s just remarkable!”

Norris had been looking for that sign for two years. She had done a presentation on Irene Sherman’s life and was hoping to feature at least a picture of the sign.

“That sign was not found when I was looking for it, trying to do a presentation on Irene,” Norris said. “For it to now to appear, maybe it’s time we start to pull other things together.”

Irene Sherman, known as the ‘Queen of Fairbanks’ was a longtime resident, known to be riding her tricycle around town wearing boots and ‘golden days’ attire. She died in 1995. The sign is believed to come from where her property used to sit near Hamilton Avenue and Slater Drive.

Painting of Irene Sherman by Janet Kruskcampof from the mid 1970's.
Painting of Irene Sherman by Janet Kruskcampof from the mid 1970's.(Janet Kruskcampof)

Norris said the museum has also been gifted two paintings of Irene Sherman. She hopes to collect more memorabilia and stories from Sherman’s life to create an exhibit.

“Maybe you have family members that have been in Alaska or Fairbanks for a long time and you haven’t really gone through some of these things,” Norris said. “This might be a good time to go through those things and find some real treasures that might be related to the story of Irene.”

If you have something you would like to share with the museum please contact Karen Norris at knorrisak@yahoo.com.

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