Marti Barker Dies at 72; A Mom, Friend to Many

Martha (Marti) Sussan Barker


Martha (Marti) Sussan Barker, 72, passed away in the early morning May 24, 2021, in the Sitka Pioneers Home. 

Marti suffered from an autoimmune disorder, sarcoidosis which attacked her lungs. She had been on oxygen for several years and had moved into the Pioneers Home last July to get the care she needed. She passed restfully.

Marti was born Dec. 9, 1948, in Juneau, the daughter of Kathryn and Philip James. She was Kaagwaantaan, and a daughter of the Chookaneidi.Kathryn passed while Marti was very young. Raised by her auntie and uncle, Karl and Cecilia Greenwald, she lived in Hoonah during the early years of her life and later moved to Sitka to be with her father. She attended Baranof Elementary School, Annex Building High School, and Sheldon Jackson High School. She graduated in 1967, a member of SJHS’s last graduating class.

After graduation she went to Hoonah, and later moved to Juneau, where she gained employment with the Federal Highway Administration as a clerk. She went on to attend Kaiser Foundation School for Nursing in Oakland, California. In December 1970 she returned to Sitka and began working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In January 1980, when the BIA offices closed in Sitka, she transferred to the USDA Forest Service. She was a purchasing agent for District 17 (Southeast Alaska) until she retired in January 2004. 

During her time with the BIA she met the love of her life, Patrick H. Barker Sr. They were married Nov. 23, 1973. Their union created a very large family, with both sets of parents becoming fast friends. The two families, with Marti’s nine siblings and Pat’s five, were quickly joined at the hip. Family was Marti’s most precious treasure at this time that they lived on the “Island,” raising four children together. Their home was always open, and all knew the price was a hug as you were coming and going. With regular nightly neighborhood games of red rover, wiffle ball, and hide ’n’ seek, the Barker home was a hub for many. She cared for and counseled all who came through the doors.

After she transferred to the Forest Service, the family moved to the Sitka side and the open-door policy of her home continued. Her closest friends were her parents, in-laws and this large family that Pat’s and her marriage had created. From large dinners with the Primacio family and weekend card games (yes, all weekend) you could find parents, siblings, children and friends at the Barker household. If she wasn’t playing cards, she most likely could be found at the softball field. She played softball and volleyball with her husband and sister-in-law, Linda Olsen. Her jersey read “Ma Barker.”

She loved the outdoors and there were many very large family picnics with all the aunties, and hikes and sledding up Blue Lake road, and tons of time on the water. She loved fishing with her father, husband, sisters and sister- and brother-in-law. She participated in the Sitka Salmon derby every year. In 2006 she came in second place in the Seward Salmon Derby fishing with her younger brother David and his wife Renee.

Her home, and her heart, were always open to all. You couldn’t come or go without hearing “Where’s my hug?” She made sure everyone had a home for the holidays, with large family dinners prepared for 40 to 50 people every year. She wanted no one to be shy in her home, making sure everyone knew to grab what they wanted and speak up if they wanted to be heard. 

With such a large family, keeping everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries become a priority for her. Every year she produced a calendar that included hundreds of names, including birthdays and anniversaries. She had them printed and sent them to entire family. 

Photography was something else she enjoyed, from taking photos, collecting them, and making photo albums to share with others. This is something she and her father would do together. He was a WWII veteran, and photography was something he picked up during his service and carried forward through his life. Marti kept a trunk full of his old cameras, Polaroids, black and whites, reel style videos, and all the photos she had taken. If you grew up on the Island, she most likely had a picture of you.

Marti was preceded in death by her parents Philip John (Peewee) James and Elsie Nova James (Huntington, Bruce) of Sitka; siblings Robert Bruce of Nenana, Ada Wilkin of Pacific, Washington, Arlene Wolff of Granite Falls, Washington, Herbert Bruce of Angoon, and Marian Donthnier of Sitka; and in-laws Ernest and Delores Barker of Sitka.

 She is survived by her husband of 48 years, Patrick Henry Barker Sr.; sisters Virginia (Ginger) Palmer of Marysville, Washington, Shirley Yocum of Sitka, and Carol Goddard of Sitka; her brother David James (Renee) of Wasilla; and her children Denise Heckman (Carl) of Dundee, Oregon; Melanie Barker, Patrick Barker Jr. (Jay), and Michelle Barker of Sitka.

She also is survived by grandchildren including Matthew Paul Heckman, Caleb Patrick Barker, Ryan Hunter Harris, Marisa Lurrey Nelson, Ellie Nova Barker, Philip John James Barker, Jayden Patrick Barker; and great-grandchild Lyric Calyan Nelson and Baby Girl Harris (on the way).

Also surviving are nieces, nephews, cousins and little ones she claimed as her very own, and many very dear friends. Her last wishes were for her family to stay connected and remain close. She was a mother, auntie, nana, and friend to so many. “Beautiful Momma, we will carry it on!” her family said.

The family thanked the many who helped care for her in the last few years including SEARHC home health care, Janet Vidad, and the staff at the Sitka Pioneer Home. 

Her family will spread her ashes at a private memorial in DeGroff Bay, her very favorite place to go camping and fishing, especially with Linda and Eric Olsen, where they had big fires and listened to great music. 

 A potluck picnic will be held 4 p.m. June 20 to celebrate her life and love for family, friends and the outdoors. 

“We invite friends and family to bring a dish and memories to share. Please join us to celebrate her life at the Halibut Point Rec pavilion, the family said.

The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to SAIL (Southeast Alaska Independent Living) at

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At a Glance

(updated 1-12-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 am Wednesday.

New cases as of Tuesday: 2,414

Total statewide – 167,008

Total (cumulative) deaths – 953

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,311

Current Hospitalizations – 81

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 130 new COVID cases in the past 7 days. Case statistics are as of Sunday.

New cases in Sitka – 7

Cases in last 7 days – 130

Cumulative Sitka cases – 1,467

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.





January 2002

Classified ads, Rentals: 3-bdrm. house on the beach. $900; 3-bdrm duplex, washer/dryer $945; Great downtown house, 2 bdrms., 2 baths, furnished,
W/D, hardwood floors $850; 2-bdrm. roomy apartment $945..


January 1972

The City and Borough Assembly Tuesday approved an ordinance establishing a transportation committee to advise the assembly and promote transportation services for the municipality. Members are Cecil McClain, Ray Mabey, Clarence Kramer,
Dick Cushing and Burt Hansen.