Laura Muktoya (Sockpick) Evans
On April 16, 2021, Laura Muktoya (Sockpick) Evans left her earthly life to join all her loved ones who left before her. We can only imagine what a beautiful reunion it was. Although her family feels like 83 years was not enough time with her, she lived a full life, remaining independent in her own home until her last days.
Laura was born in Shishmaref on May 12, 1937, to Holly (Nayokpuk) Sockpick and Teddy Sockpick. She was the eldest in a family of 13 children. She grew up in a sod house in Shishmaref with a dog team for transportation. It was a challenging, yet rewarding life, and she took on responsibility at an early age. She was older than her siblings and helped to raise them, serving as both sister and almost as a second mother. Laura took all of her siblings under her wing and later, did the same for not only her own children, but anyone who was blessed to be part of her life.
Perhaps it came from keeping an eye on so many young ones for years that made her well-suited to be the family matriarch. Laura spoke what was on her mind. She was straight-forward but spoke in a gentle and caring way. If you drifted off path, she was quick to correct but also supportive of her family in everything they did. She was always positive; she always saw the good in all life’s situations.
Laura was smart — she loved reading books, doing crossword puzzles and wordfinders, and was an excellent speller, though she had little formal education, having only finished the eighth grade.
As a teenager, she contracted tuberculosis during the epidemic. Along with her father, who also got TB, she spent two years in quarantine at a sanatorium near Seattle. Although not the ideal situation being apart from her big family back home, she was able to spend quality time healing with her loving father Teddy, who survived the 1918 Pandemic. She talked about how beautiful it was at Laurel Beach, staying in cottages and digging for and cooking clams they harvested. Later, in her 80s, she lived through the COVID-19 pandemic.
While living in Anchorage, Laura’s sister Iva introduced her to her future husband Bob. Bob and Laura were married in 1968 and had and raised five children Bobby, Sherry, Jason, David and Debbie. They were married for 37 years before Bob passed away in 2002.
Laura worked many jobs throughout her life but what brought her the most joy was being able to stay home and raise her children. Her talent in Native Arts & Crafts allowed her to stay home and support her family. Although often considered “men’s work,” Laura took on after her father as an accomplished ivory carver. She made beautiful scrimshaw art — pendants, earrings, bracelets. She was a skilled seamstress and skin sewer who crafted stunning handmade parkas, kuspuks and Eskimo dolls with ivory faces. She was known for her sealskin slippers and for being a bit of a perfectionist, too, as she expected everyone to try their best in everything.
Laura spent most of her life in Nome and loved being out in the country. She could often be found driving down the country roads outside Nome. Whether she was with her children or grandchildren, siblings, or alone, she’d head out onto the tundra whatever the season called for, to pick berries or greens, dig for masu or harvest fish.
She recently remembered her and her parents would put as many as 400 dry fish away during the summer. She’d pack something to eat in her backpack, put on her wrestling shoes — she was worried about her ankles, later in life — and make her way out of town. She’d park the truck far enough off the road that it was safe, and walk until she found what she was looking for. She always knew the best berry-picking spots, her family said. In many old pictures, it’s Laura’s bucket which is the most full — a testament to much of a life spent out on the land, finding the best spots and knowing when to harvest.
But the same strength of determination extended far beyond the lush blueberry patches she knew how to find, it could be found in every aspect of her life. When asked to describe her, family and friends would say she was strong, caring, witty and selfless.
As an adult in Nome, she opened her home to people traveling in from the villages for medical appointments. She housed patients for many years from all over the region. Her patients became her friends and kept in touch through the years, she recently talked about wishing she could visit with them.
Laura cherished her grandchildren. Lucky for the older ones, she watched them for hours on end, so their parents could work. She loved taking them to the beach, or fishing, berry picking, anywhere to teach them life lessons. In the family pictures, she is holding the babies, sniffing them and attending all their school events. She taught them about the importance of prayer and believed that their prayers were the most powerful. Laura instilled in her children and grandchildren a sense of dedication, hard work, compassion and courage.
Laura had a drive in her to keep going no matter what. Resilience and independence carried Laura through many years of her life. After the death of her husband Bob nearly two decades ago, she continued, never losing her spirit. Laura believed in the power of prayer. As her daughter said, she never felt she was alone. She loved to sing in the choir and spent many days listening to recordings of singing from across the state.
Like many people in town, Laura was an avid basketball fan. She went to every game she could. You could always find her sitting in the bleachers at Nanook games, or Nome’s annual Iditarod tournament. It did not matter who was playing — if it was her kids or grandkids, or other people from the community — she was there, cheering them on. Once she couldn’t go in person anymore, she sat at home, dutifully listening to the games on her radio.
Laura was most happy when all her family spent the holidays with her. Those family dinners were the best, most often it was turkey on the menu but she also loved Milano’s pizza. She also made her delicious agutuk for special occasions. COVID-19 was an especially hard year trying to protect her from it but also not able to have all the big family gatherings during the holidays.
She was a woman of wisdom and inspiration — a loving mother, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She cared for everyone, especially those in need. She always gave the best advice and made you feel better just being in her presence. Laura was there with a smile, a joke, and anything else that would bring you comfort.
Remembering her now, her family said they’d picture her sitting at home, laughing and telling stories about days gone by, or out on those open roads, searching for berries with a keen eye and the wisdom of generations.
Laura was preceded in death by her beloved husband Bob, her parents Teddy and Holly Sockpick, her siblings Roderick Sockpick, Roy Sockpick, Davis Sockpick and Bernice Allred.
Laura is survived by her siblings Sarah Ringstad (Gerald), Iva Whitacre (Marv), Marian Hensley (Will), Carson Sockpick, Brian Sockpick, Rita Topkok (Andrew), Sue Delgado (Dave), and Joan Hjalseth, her children Ricky Sockpick, Bobby Evans (Kayleen), Sherry Otton (Darrin), Jason Evans (Kiana), Dave Evans (Dena) and Debbie Peacock (Lahka) her grandchildren Ashley, Amber, Mason, Lauren, Kaylene, Jadyn, Keon, Devan, Dawson, Caleb, Kylie, Karis, Kasen, Kian, Granite, Sila, Rohn, Naya, Mesa and Ayak, along with four great granddaughters – Madeline, Remi, Holland and Lacey, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Laura will be missed by so many. Her life impacted more people than she knew. Thank you to everyone who brought food, sent flowers, and reached out with thoughts and prayers. Thank you to the Nome first responders, Norton Sound Health Corporation, especially Social Services, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the community of Nome and the surrounding villages as they have been so good to our family and our dearest mother.
A Celebration of Life is planned for 2 p.m. on June 15, 2021 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Nome, Alaska followed by burial at the Belmont Point Cemetery in Nome.