Kay Branch, age 61, passed away on July 9, 2016 from metastatic triple negative breast cancer, surrounded by her true love and husband Bill Herman, her daughter Laura Herman, her father Herman Winstead, sister Sue Wilson, and friends Teresa Nelson, Julie Holden, Pat Miles and Debbie Angleton. Her goddaughter, Su Ling Caballero and Su Ling’s daughter, Annalea, were also at her side a few days earlier.
Kay grew up in Lakeland, Florida, and as an adult she moved to Alaska in 1984, remaining here for the rest of her life. She gained a bachelors degree at UAA and a masters in Anthropology at the University of South Florida. She lived in Dillingham for four years, working for the Bristol Bay Native Association, managing their Elder Care program. There she began her beloved life’s work in improving care for Alaska Native elders. She then moved to Anchorage to work for the State of Alaska and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to do statewide planning to improve elder care. In that role, she knew and loved many elders and had strong influence on their services in Bristol Bay, Kotzebue, Nome, Galena, Seward, Fairbanks, Port Graham, Bethel and many other communities. Out of gratitude for her work, the Alaska tribal elder care leaders pushed for Kay to be recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in their 2012 Community Health Leader Award. She was selected as one of ten exemplary leaders in the nation. Her influence in the elder care field also extended to leadership in other Native American programs across the nation.
Although diminutive in height, Kay was a powerhouse, beaming astounding love and light that deeply touched all who were fortunate enough to know her. This was expressed in her lasting, close relationships with family and friends, as well as in her work for Alaska Native elders. Because she was so loved, she was given an honorary Yup’ik name: Arnayagaq (Little Woman). Kay also had a great love for all aspects of nature in Alaska. She energetically backpacked in its mountains, floated its rivers, and sea kayaked along its coastline all through her years. Much of these expeditions were with her loving husband Bill. She was very active in the Anchorage and statewide network of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Her cancer was sneaky, cruel and unrelenting, and we relish knowing that she is no longer suffering. Her ashes will stay with her husband Bill until he passes. Their ashes will be mixed together and spread near Wonder Bay on Shuyak Island in the Kodiak Archipelago, so that they can both rest in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
There will be a celebration of her life on July 27, 6:30pm in room 1 & 2 of the Consortium Office Building of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, 4000 Ambassador Drive, Anchorage. Attendees will share stories and will honor Kay’s presence in, and gifts to, the world.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests people express their love for Kay by making contributions to the Elder Health Fund of the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation at http://inspiringgoodhealth.org/help-us-care-for-our-elders/