49 Voices: Richard Hensley of Kotzebue

Richard Hensley in Kotzebue (Photo by Anne Hillman, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Richard Hensley in Kotzebue. Hensley lives in an assisted living facility now, but used to live with his sister and brother-in-law.

Listen now

HENSLEY: Kotzebue, I was born and raised around here 68 years ago. I could lie about my age (laughs).

Before I ended up in this facility, we were living in a trailer. I woke up. I hollered “Anybody home!” Nobody home. Hot cup of coffee on the table. I picked it up. Didn’t see my brother-in-law around. He wrote me a note. I picked it up. I put my coffee down. I read that note:

“Uncle Richard. I had to rush your younger sister to the hospital.”

As soon as I saw that hospital part, I dropped that note and I forgot all about my coffee. Out the door I went. I got so excited, I ran out in slippers. No jacket.

Then my sister Beverly, she told my brother-in-law, “Ron. Did you write your brother-in-law a note.”

“Yeah, I wrote him a note. He was just sleeping babe.”

My younger sister said, “Well. You better go check on him. He’s probably awake.”

I got about halfway between the hospital from our trailer. Then I saw a car coming down he road. I thought, “Oh gee. Here comes my brother-in-law.” So I stopped. (laughs) It was him.

He said, “Uncle Richard.”

I said, “What, Ron?”

He said, “Where’s your jacket and shoes?”

I said, “I woke up and hollered for you, ‘Anybody home?’ Nobody answered me. You wrote me a note. That’s what got me all riled up.” (laughs)

That’s when my younger sister Beverly had my niece Judy. Right on the 7th of January. Right on my birthday.

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After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. She's reported from around Alaska since 2007 and briefly worked as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan. ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne