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Alaska News

'Kit' Crittenden, who helped beautify city, dies at 88

  • Author:
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published February 15, 2010

Katharine "Kit" Carson Crittenden died peacefully at home in Anchorage Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, with her husband of 66 years, Ed, at her side. She was 88.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church, 616 W. 10th Ave.

Kit was born Aug. 9, 1921, in Louisville, Ky., to Katharine (Davenport) and The Rev. Ralph Carson. She grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and in Bloomington, Ill. She earned a degree in drama from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and the Drama Society. Kit starred in and directed many plays and musicals, both in college and in Alaska. Her most memorable roles include Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest" and Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion." In 1943, at the urging of lifelong friend June Paxton Judd, whose husband was there in the Coast Guard, Kit traveled to Ketchikan for a job at the Tongass Trading Co. There she met and married the man who would be her lifelong love, Edwin Butler Crittenden, who was also there in the Coast Guard. After World War II, the couple returned to "the states," but their love of Alaska brought them back to Anchorage in 1949. They raised their family in the home Ed designed for them below 15th Avenue and F Street.

Never paid for her work, Kit devoted endless hours to inspiring Anchorage's mayors, from George Sullivan to Mark Begich, and other elected officials and community leaders, to envision the beautification of Anchorage and the preservation of its historic buildings through wise planning and development.

In 1974, the late Lucy Cuddy wrote: "New York has Ada Louise (Huxtable, then-architecture critic for The Wall Street Journal and outspoken advocate for preservation of that city's historic landmarks); Anchorage boasts Kit. We are proud!" Kit will be remembered for her role in the creation of the Chester Creek Greenbelt, including the bike trail and the C Street Underpass, and the Oscar Anderson House Museum at Elderberry Park, but she also assisted in establishing what are now the Urban Design Commission and the Anchorage Historic Preservation Commission, herself heading Historic Anchorage Inc. for 10 years.

Most recently, she authored "Get Mears!" a nationally recognized biography of Col. Frederick Mears, who supervised the construction of the Alaska Railroad and was responsible for the planning of the town site that became Anchorage. Kit was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage for many years, serving as an elder, directing Christmas pageants and plays, and teaching Sunday school. She and Ed would pile their six children into the car each Sunday and race up G Street to be on time for church, where her distinctive soprano voice could be heard clearly.

Afterward, they frequently took the kids for brunch at the Traveler's Inn or Peggy's Pies, both family favorites. Kit's children fondly recall her teaching them to recite poetry and sing songs from Broadway musicals as she drove them to and from school; her love of beauty and the arts was a blessing in all their lives. Through the grace of God's love, Kit lived a full and joyous life, and her steadfast faith was a continuing inspiration to her large extended family.

Kit is survived by her husband, Edwin B. Crittenden; her sister, Corinne Blair of Anchorage; two brothers, Davis and Kainor Carson and Kainor's wife Beverly, of Tulsa, Okla.; six children, Katharine "Katie" Crittenden, John and his wife Robin (Warren), Jim and his wife Mollie (Doran), and Davis and his wife Lanie (Belangdal), all of Anchorage; Elizabeth and her husband Oscar Palacios of Taos, N.M.; and Harriet and her husband Michael LaMair of Denver, Colo. She is also survived by her 10 grandchildren: Carson Coulon; Karen Crittenden Nijem, Anna Crittenden Lamy and Emily Crittenden, Mara and Eva Perrigo, Patrick Crittenden, and Edwin, Davis and Katherine LaMair; three great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and -nephews.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to the Oscar Anderson Fund at the Alaska Community Foundation, 400 L St., Suite 100, Anchorage 99501; or to Hospice of Anchorage, 500 W. International Airport Road, Suite C, Anchorage 99518.

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