Talkeetna resident Ardella Rose Nelson Hagen, 79, died on August 11 at home after a brief bout of cancer. A funeral was that evening at Talkeetna Baptist Church with Rev. Wes Hudson officiating. Burial was at the Baptist Church cemetery. Pallbearers were her sons, Vaughn and Robert Spiker; grandsons, Brain and Samuel Chavez, son in law Burt Durham and friend Todd Condon.
Ardella was born November 1, 1930 in Formosa, Kansas. She received her PHT at the University of Idaho-Moscow. She lived in Idaho, Nevada, Kansas, Georgia and Colorado and came to Alaska originally in 1959. She left in 1964 and returned in 1991, living in the state until the present.
She served the community as an election official in Talkeetna. She enjoyed gardening, birch bark basket making and rug making and won several purple ribbons at the Alaska State Fair. She was a member of the Upper Susitna Seniors Inc.
She was preceded in death by her husband John Hagen. She is survived by her daughter and son in law Lucinda and Burt Durham of Talkeetna, two sons and daughters in law, Robert and Barbara Spiker of Fresno, Calif., and Vaughn and Sharon Spiker of Ola, Idaho; sister and brother in law Joy and Rusty Larkin of Cambridge, Idaho; brother and sister in law Vaughn and Beth Nelson of Kennewick, Wash; grandchildren and grandchildren in law, Samuel Chavez, Nadyne and Adam Burra all of Reno, Nev, Brian Chavez of Talkeetna, Louis Spiker of Twin Falls, Idaho and Willis and Erin Spiker of Demming, NM, one great-grandchild, Tharon Chavez of Talkeetna, many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews.
The family requests that memorial contributions be directed to the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC. 200002-4999.
**Ardella was a popular figure at the Denali Arts Council’s Outdoor Market in downtown Talkeetna. Friends have put up a flower memorial outside her birch bark basket booth in honor of her.
She made a name for herself several years ago when she designed and built her own casket. The story was covered in statewide news and an article written by then Trapper Creek resident Jill Choate ran in Mother Earth News, a national magazine for people interested in living off the grid, in October 2007. Friends say she was a savvy real estate-and-businesswoman.
Alaska law provides that a person that dies and is buried in the same day does not have to be embalmed. Ardella was buried in her own beautiful hand made casket.
Click here to read the Mother Earth News article, Country Lore: A Casket to Live for, written by Jill Choate and published in October/November 2007.