Aaron James Robbins

Aaron James Robbins

Ketchikan, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, USA
Death 15 Jul 1969 (aged 1 day)
Ketchikan, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, USA
Burial Metlakatla, Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Alaska, USA
Memorial ID 11013378 · View Source
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(click on each photo to read the captions)

Aaron James Robbins was the infant son of my parents, Envoys Bryan Henry and Faith Lillian (Valk) Robbins, who served as officers (ministers) with The Salvation Army to the Tshimshian natives in Metlakatla, Alaska on Annette Island from 1968 - 1970. My father also served as substitute chaplin at Annette Island Coast Guard Base, located a few miles away. Aaron was born two months prematurely at the nearest hospital (Ketchikan General Hospital) on July 14, 1969, and lived only about 12 hours. He was buried in Metlakatla Cemetery, in the Starrish - Simpson family plot. (This family were good friends with my parents.) My father made a wooden cross which he painted with Aaron's birth and death information, as a grave marker.

My paternal grandparents had offered to have Aaron's body shipped to the Coopersville Cemetery in Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan to be buried in the Robbins Family Plot, but my parents declined. I believe they felt at the time that they would always live in Alaska; and at any rate, he was buried with the people that my parents had grown to love and respect and who loved and respected them in return.

Although only two years old at the time, I remember accompanying my father to the airstrip on Annette Island, to meet the pilot of a small-engine plane who delivered a wreath or spray of flowers to be placed on Aaron's grave. This is one of my earliest memories.

In the Spring of 1970, my parents were transferred out of Metlakatla to Kake, Alaska; in February 1971, they were again transferred, this time to Klawock, Alaska. Both Kake and Klawock are original native Tlinget villages. In 1975 wishing to have a more permanent residence, my parents took a leave of absense, and later resigned, from The Salvation Army. During this time, we made occaisional trips by ferry to Metlakatla to visit friends, and I remember one time in particular visiting the cemetery. In 1979, our family moved to Northeast Washington. Over the years, the moist Southeast Alaskan climate took its toll on the wooden marker, and was replaced by the Starrish and Simpson family members with a simple wooden cross.

On May 23, 2005, I added the Metlakatla Cemetery and Aaron's grave to the Find A Grave website, and added a photo request to his memorial page. I had only a handful of photos of his grave taken at the time of his burial, and was curious as to the condition of his grave. Time went by, and I wasn't sure if anyone would ever fulfill my request, especially since his was, at that time, the only grave listed at this cemetery.

On July 19, 2006, I received an e-mail from Judy Zenge of Ketchikan, Alaska, who had recently become a Find-A-Grave member. She had seen my photo request, and although could not fulfill it immediately, promised to see what she could do to locate and photograph Aaron's grave. Gratefully, I wrote her back, warning her that I had no idea if the grave was even identifiable, not knowing what condition it--or the cemetery--was in.

Because Judy is a court reporter, she knew a judge, Ed Littlefield, Sr., of Metlakatla. She contacted him and discovered that the written cemetery records had disappeared four years earlier. She then contacted the local council, who referred her to Paul Starrish. Paul not only knew where Aaron's grave was, he had been tending it for years, along with his own family's. He promised to lead her to the gravesite as soon as she could make arrangements to visit Metlakatla.

On August 11, 2006, Judy arranged for private transportation from Ketchikan to Annette Island. She met Paul Starrish and was able to take a photo of Aaron's grave, along with general pictures of the cemetery, one of which I posted as a cemetery photo for the Metlakatla Cemetery page. She was saddened to see how many graves, including my brother's, simply had plain wooden markers, especially since the written records have disappeared. She shared the details of her visit with her husband Dave, who was so moved by her story, he volunteered to create a new marker for Aaron. In addition, Judy sponsored Aaron's memorial page at Find-A-Grave.

As a woodworker, Dave Zenge knew that red cedar would withstand the harsh climate of Southeast Alaska...after all, that's the wood the natives have used for totems for millenia. He created a masterpiece which was devised to stand four feet above ground, complete with The Salvation Army crest, Aaron's name and death date, a Bible verse (Matthew 18:2) and a spray of flowers, then sealed it with marine varnish to protect the wood from the elements. All this was done around his busy work schedule and a trip to Washington State to maintain his elderly father's home. The whole family became involved in this incredible project!

On October 6, 2006, Dave and Judy Zenge took the hour-and-a-half Ketchikan-to-Metlakatla trip via the public ferry system. Along the way, a killer whale accompanied the ferry, a significant symbol, because when my parents were "adopted" by the Tlinget tribe, my mother and all her children (including Aaron) are considered to be a part of the Killer Whale moiety of the Eagle Clan. At the invitation of the Zenges, Envoy Dick Burton of The Salvation Army, was present when Dave planted the new marker. The Envoy then read from the Scriptures and said a prayer over little Aaron's grave.

Words cannot describe the gratitude our family has toward the many people who made this possible: the Zenge family (Judy & Dave); Envoy Dick Burton; Paul Starrish; Judge Ed Littlefield, Jr.; and of course, Jim Tipton and his associates, for creating the amazing Find-A-Grave website!

Miriam Robbins
October 29, 2006

Grandfather Robbins' grave.

Plan a visit to Ocean View Cemetery?

  • Created by: Miriam
  • Added: 23 May 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11013378
  • Judy Z
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Aaron James Robbins (14 Jul 1969–15 Jul 1969), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11013378, citing Ocean View Cemetery, Metlakatla, Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Alaska, USA ; Maintained by Miriam (contributor 46497933) .