Alaska News

Ermalee Hickel, former first lady of Alaska, dies at 92

Ermalee Hickel died Thursday at her home in Anchorage, her family said.

"She went very quiet, very peaceful," said her son, Jack Hickel. "She had just turned 92 and she lived a wonderful, wonderful life."

She will be buried in Anchorage Memorial Park next to her husband, former Alaska Gov. Wally Hickel, who was famously buried standing up, facing Washington, D.C.

"He said if they don't do it right he's going to crawl out of his grave and straighten them out," Jack Hickel said. "He thought they were going to screw everything up. He wanted to keep his eye on them."

Ermalee will also be buried standing up, facing the same direction, her son said.

Hickel was born and raised in Anchorage, where she raised six boys, one of whom was her stepson from Wally Hickel's first marriage.

"We did not make life easy for her, but she was just a wonderful mom, a wonderful wife to my dad, and I think she was loved by everybody," Jack Hickel said.

Ermalee and Wally Hickel were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1945. They spent 65 years together until his death in 2010.

Wally Hickel served as governor of Alaska from 1966 to 1969 before resigning to take a position as the U.S. secretary of the interior under President Richard Nixon. He served as governor once again from 1990 to 1994.

Ermalee loved to garden and was fiercely dedicated to her family, Jack Hickel said. He recounted how, on Sundays after church, she would put chains on the car, pack the family up, and take them to Arctic Valley. She would sit in the ski lodge all day while the children went skiing.

"She put those chains on all by herself," Hickel said.

Ermalee Hickel died in her own bed, "just the way she wanted it," surrounded by family, Jack Hickel said. The family would be gathering together to decide funeral arrangements.