Kotlik Catalyst

Black and white photo of elderly woman inside her home.

Elder Esther Andrews from Kotlik has been among the most frequent and cheerful of callers to Zoe Grueskin’s late afternoon request show.

The long-distance friendship sparked an April “Story49” episode featuring Esther’s life story — which sparked a series of joyful connections in Esther’s home village.

Kotlik’s 4th-grade teacher, also Esther’s niece, was so moved by her aunt’s radio story that she played it for her class. Her students made special greeting cards for Esther and held an in-class discussion on manners and respect for elders. Then, they took their cards and a homemade pot of soup to Esther’s house to spend time with her and ask her follow-up questions about her life. Hearing this “especially warmed my heart,” Zoe says, “because Esther is on oxygen and can’t really leave her house.”

“When I talked to Esther yesterday,” Zoe adds, “she sounded so happy about it and mentioned she even teared up at one of the questions the kids asked her.” The question was “who is your best friend?”, to which Esther answered her husband, who passed away several years ago.

The Kotlik teacher hopes to expand her class’s outreach to a program called “Adopt an Elder.” As this issue goes to press, the teacher’s grandson plans to bring the idea to the local school board at an upcoming meeting.

Image at top: Esther Andrews, the subject of April’s “Story49” and the spark of a new outpouring of support for elders in her home village of Kotlik, Alaska. Photo provided courtesy of Ms. Andrews.