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KNOM’s Unsung Volunteers

Support nurse Anne (Irsfeld) Ivanoff
Anne (Irsfeld) Ivanoff (1994) was KNOM’s last support nurse. Photo: KNOM file.

In the early decades of KNOM, a unique partnership with the Nome Hospital and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps supported the KNOM Mission. The Nome Hospital needed nurses. In the 1960s and ‘70s, recruitment was a huge roadblock to staffing. Using KNOM’s connection to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the radio station provided the hospital with trained professionals who were provided scarce housing at the KNOM community complex.

Eventually, the volunteers would grow to nearly two dozen radio, hospital, and parish workers who lived in a compound of buildings occupying a quarter of a city block. The KNOM community enjoyed meals prepared by the community cook (also a volunteer) at the 30-foot-long dining table.

Black and white photo of two nurses, Candy Gleason and Meg Gabriel, consulting with a village health aide using short wave radio.
Candy Gleason and Meg Gabriel consult with a village health aide using short wave radio (circa 1970s). Photo: KNOM file.

71 nurses and 4 doctors generously worked long hours at the Nome hospital and lived as volunteers. Occasionally, other support positions were created when a local need could be met by a KNOMer. Beside their incredible financial sacrifice, KNOM nurses added a large measure of humility and caring to the community. Dinner conversations included banter about a famous person interviewed by a radio volunteer and a nurse sharing that she just worked a double shift at the hospital.

Doctor Harry Owens, circa 1980s.
Doctor Harry Owens, circa 1980s. Photo: KNOM file.

After dinner, Dr. Harry Owens, who volunteered for KNOM for a number of years, would get ready for evening rounds at the hospital, joking with a twinkle in his eye, “I’m off to the horse-pistol (hospital), to stamp out disease and pestilence and save lives.” Doc Harry, like the nurses with whom he worked, made the draining and emotional work seem easy. Their compassion was compounded when they surrendered their entire paychecks to the radio mission.

In the 1970s and 80s, 70% of KNOM’s expenses were paid by support volunteers. The last KNOM nurse volunteered in 1994. Now, 97% of KNOM’s income comes from private donations. Thanks to your support, the oldest Catholic radio station in the country will soon be celebrating a half century of broadcasting.

Nurses Terry Romanesko, Linda Peters, and Annie Blandford, wearing scrubs and holding flowers
Terry Romanesko, Linda Peters and Annie Blandford were honored by Norton Sound Health Corporation for their decades of service to the region (which began as support nurses for KNOM). Annie Blandford came to KNOM in the mid-1970s and still works for NSHC. She also serves on the KNOM board of Directors.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the last name of the nurse in the top photo. Her name is Anne Ivanoff.

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Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.