New: Family Obituary For Kari Barnard, Whose Grandfather Built Gakona Lodge

Kari Barnard  Passed Away On November 9th, 2022  Kari Barnard, 64, died peacefully at her home on Nov. 9 in Anchorage.  She was born August ...

Kari Barnard 

Passed Away On November 9th, 2022 

Kari Barnard, 64, died peacefully at her home on Nov. 9 in Anchorage. 

She was born August 6th, 1958 in Houston, Texas to Earl and Marguerite Barnard, the eldest of four children. In 1959, they returned to Gakona, Alaska, where Kari's grandparents had built and operated the Gakona Lodge, while raising their family there. Kari spent a lot of time in Gakona and eventually became owner of her grandmother's little red house near the Lodge. The family moved to Anchorage in 1964, where Kari attended school. She attended West High School and then graduated from Service High School.

Kari had a lovely singing voice and studied music at PLU in Washington. She thrilled friends and family with her singing for special events. Kari worked on a shipboard cannery, worked at various jobs over the years, but especially loved assistant teaching in elementary schools in Gakona and Copper Center. Despite several chronic health issues, Kari was an intrepid explorer of the Alaskan wilderness and especially the Copper Valley, that she loved. She attended the Wrangell Mountain Center Writing Workshop in McCarthy for several years and it inspired her to write many stories about her life, usually with a humorous approach that never failed to entertain and inspire.

Kari was known for carrying everything you could ever want in her backpack. She had a complete over the counter cornucopia of remedies, sun screen, bear spray, insect repellent, various toiletries, pins, rubber bands, writing utensils, you name it; she had it in her backpack. The late Sherry Simpson, revered Alaskan writer, wrote a column in We Alaskans about Kari's amazing backpack and its contents.

Kari was a very special person who radiated good cheer and humor, despite facing many challenges. She had a lively spirit and was beloved by all who knew her.

She is survived by her mother, Marguerite; her brother, Ross; her sister, Karen; her niece, Sonja Marie Rivas; and nephew, Schuyler Andrew. She was preceded in death by her father, Earl; and her brother, Arne, who passed away in September 2021.

No services are planned at this time. Condolences may be sent to Marguerite Barnard at 9050 Claridge Place, Anchorage, AK 99507


Kari Barnard, who once lived in Gakona and worked as an aide at Gakona School, died November 9th, 2022. She was 64 years old. 

Highly creative, Kari threw herself into everything she did. When she was at the school (which was still operating in the 1980s, with a large number of local students from the Gulkana-Gakona area) she took the annual Gakona Christmas Pageant to an entire new level. She came up with musical ensembles, costumes, and some kind of starring role for every single child. 

Blessed with a great voice, Kari had wanted to be an opera singer when she was young. She still sang. In 2001, when the Greater Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce held a special dinner honoring, by name, the many emergency volunteers in the Copper Valley at the time, Kari came to the meeting. 

She sang "God Bless America" in honor of the EMTs of the tragedy of 9/11. She ended the program with a lively rendition of  "Trailers For Sale Or Rent." 

Kari Barnard (From Find A Grave, Rocky Ansell)

Once, she helped coordinate an extravaganza using the new theater at Glennallen High, featuring local people reading sections of a Minnesota miner's 1898 Gold Rush diary about his dangerous trek through the Copper River Valley. The show's poignant narrative from Horace Conger's story, "In Search Of Gold," talked of how difficult it was for miners to survive in a place they barely understood. 

This was all up Kari's alley. It was, in many ways, just a continuation of her own family history. 

Kari Barnard was a granddaughter of Henra and Arne Sundt, long-ago owners and operators of the historic Gakona Lodge, Her grandfather – a Norwegian immigrant – built what is now known as "the lodge" (the big log building on the property) in the 1920s. 

Arne's spunky, outspoken wife, Henra, came alone by ship from Norway to marry him, crossing the United States by train, and then continuing by train from Cordova, where they married, and then on to Chitina. 

They then drove to Henra's new home at Gakona Junction over the rough road in a Model A truck. Kari's grandmother loved to tell about how she and her new husband got to the bottom of Gakona Hill by Gulkana Village, and local people teased the newlyweds by stringing baby clothes across the trail on a clothesline, blocking their way. 

Kari took great pride in her legacy, and enjoyed the Copper Valley's complex history and its people. In the 1980s, she came back to the region to live. 

She was present during a "Project Jukebox" interview with her grandmother. Project Jukebox is a University of Alaska historical archive, in which university personnel come to a region and talk to locals about Alaska history.

When she lived in Gakona, Kari's home was the little red log cabin beside the road, across from Gakona School. This had been her grandmother's home, at the edge of the Gakona Lodge property. 

After Henra Sundt died, the Jerry Strang family, which had bought the lodge, sanded the big lodge building down to its natural log color. 

This was a new thing for the lodge. For years, Gakona Lodge had been a bright "Kennicott Red" -- a reminder of the deep red colors of log buildings back home in the mountains of Norway. 

Kari never sanded down her little log home, though, and even today, it's still covered with red, Norwegian-style paint. 

Kari Barnard's historic red log home on the edge of the Gakona Lodge property, before the paint began to fade.  (Photo, Country Journal archives) 

Kari's mom, Marguerite ("Tootsie") Barnard married Earl ("Tex") Barnard, a Texan who came through Gakona while working as a surveyor on the Tok Cutoff. Earl staked a 160-acre homestead north of Gulkana Village, where he grew potatoes. 

In 1987, Kari's father built an 8-foot long Texas-style meat smoker. An inveterate inventor, he designed a tamale machine, too. He and his daughter put these inventions to good use. 

Kari joined him for a number of years operating a popular and authentic Texas restaurant on the Old Seward Highway called Taste of Texas, which also specialized in the most authentic of Alaskan desserts: fresh rhubarb pie.

Kari had three siblings: Karen, Arne and Ross. Her father, Earl, died in 2011 and her brother, Arne Barnard, died in 2021. 

NOTE: This memorial is by the Copper River Country Journal. 


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