When I moved to Sitka, Sarah asked if I had seen the little old lady riding her bike.
The first time I saw Alice, she wore a bold combination of red and yellow with her grey hair blowing around in the wind and rain. I thought she was so cute, riding her cruiser every day back and forth between Sawmill Creek Road and downtown Sitka.
Then I saw her volunteering at a local thrift shop – flitting around asserting her presence, bargaining with customers and contradicting her co-volunteers.
Next I heard her weekly show on Sitka’s public radio station. She played an accordion, and she grew in my mind from cute to remarkable.
This spring, some friends moved into a house facing Jamestown Bay, and I learned where Alice parked her bike. At a dock near the highway, she switched vehicles and rowed a small boat across the bay to her home on an island. Rare was a day too rough, too iced over or too rainy for her to make her round trip from home to town.
I heard her bike was stolen this past year. Concerned citizens pooled their resources and replaced her bike to which Alice replied, “I don’t want a new bike; I want my bike.” Word spread through town, and her bike soon reappeared in its rightful location.
Saturday afternoon I saw Alice near her dock. I waved hello, and she gave me a grin and a double thumbs up.
Saturday evening Alice Machesney died playing her accordion for residents of the local retirement home. She was 83.
I did not know Alice well, but I loved knowing she was here, bucking limitations and doing whatever the hell she wanted. I could say, “Rest in peace,” but seeing the energy and vigor she poured into every day, I doubt there will be much resting. I can say Sitka won’t feel the same without Alice. She will be missed.
(Photo: Adam Crawford)