Patty Luckhurst, who served Dillingham schools for more than two decades, passed away Friday at 59

Oct 11, 2017

“There was a strength to Patty that everyone can attest to that knows her, and it’ll be a big loss to this community," said Chris Napoli who served on the school board with her during her final term.

Credit photo courtesy of Vince Luckhurst

Dillingham lost its longtime lunch lady, school board member and advocate for children on October 6. Patty Luckhurst passed away after fighting cancer for nearly 10 months. She was 59 years old.

Luckhurst moved to Dillingham more than three decades ago to work in the Sea Inn, which her aunt Shirley Wiggins owned. Soon afterward she married Vince Luckhurst, and eventually she went to work at the school in food service, a role she filled for 22 years.

If it was a student’s birthday, Patty could whip up a cake on short notice. If there was a sports event, Patty and Vince, a custodian for the school, were both there, taking care of the food and the facilities.

Longtime friend Cindy Roque remembers the dedication and care Patty and Vince showed, giving up week nights and weekends to help put on athletic events.

“They would work all day, and then there would be basketball games or wrestling matches, and they would be still there. They were basically working an extra four, five or six hours, sometimes an entire weekend for nothing just because of the love of the community. That’s the caliber of people they are. They didn’t do it just one year. They did it for years and years and years,” said Roque.

Luckhurst was integral in the Fish to Kids program, which continues to enable schools in the area to serve Bristol Bay salmon to students. She and Norman Van Vactor, then Bristol Bay manager for Peter Pan Seafoods, spearheaded the initiative in the early 2000s. They ran into regulatory issues when they tried to persuade Dillingham City School District to buy fish, but Luckhurst found a workaround.

Patty Luckhurst was instrumental in starting Fish for Kids, a program that enables fisherman and processors to donate Bristol Bay salmon to local schools.
Credit photo courtesy of Tish Olson

“At the end of the day, Patty Luckhurst is somebody who wouldn’t take a silly ‘no’ for an answer and, through her dogged determination, determined that if the fish could be procured for free that we could make it happen,” said Van Vactor.

For more than a decade now, fisherman and processors have been donating Bristol Bay salmon to area schools.

In addition to serving the community’s children at the school, Luckhurst ran a therapeutic foster home that took in children from around Alaska for nine years. Therapeutic foster care is designed to help kids address mental illness or emotional and behavioral problems in a residential home. Luckhurst adopted two children whom she fostered.

Cooking up some Bristol Bay salmon for Dillingham students
Credit photo courtesy of Tish Olson

Luckhurst was still an active member on the school board when she passed away. Throughout her treatment for cancer in Anchorage and Seattle, she continued to call in for meetings, providing perspective from her years at the school on the many issues that came before the board. With her warmth and wit, she was able to often able lighten discussions when they became tense.

“Patty Luckhurst will leave an impact on this community in so many different ways,” said Chris Napoli, who was school board president, during Patty’s final term. “There was a strength to Patty that everyone can attest to that knows her, and it’ll be a big loss to this community.”

There will be a celebration of Patty Luckhurst’s life on Saturday, October 14, at 11 a.m. at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Dillingham. A potluck will follow immediately afterward at the elementary school gym.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.