Who are the Newlins? Meet the first lady's family
Alaska's next governor will be sworn into office Monday — an event that will make national history.
For the first time, a United States governor will be sworn into office above the Arctic Circle. While Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy originally planned on having his swearing in in the village of Noorvik, a town of just over 600 people, his plane was diverted to Kotzebue due to weather. Plans are being made for him to be sworn in there.
Noorvik is particularly symbolic for the incoming first lady's family as the school where the event will take place is named after Rose Dunleavy's late father, Robert Aqqaluk Newlin Sr.
Newlin Sr. was the first chairman of the NANA board of directors and a former mayor of Noorvik. His portrait and quotation hang in the school house halls:
"Hard work has changed somewhat. We had no stove oil, we had no electricity, but we had to work in order to be alive. Things change, but there's still a lot of things that a fellow can do."
Mary Carter, Rose's former classmate, remembers Newlin fondly. She describes him as humble, but stern when he needed to be.
"He was a manager for so many years at the Native store, so all the men would go up there, they wouldn't buy [anything]. They'd stand outside and talk and be planning, having fun, tell stories," Carter, known in Inupiaq as Alaskan Aagan Ann, said.
Carter describes growing up in Noorvik with Rose as the best time of their lives.
"It's so different today [than] the way we grew up. We grew up with no TVs, no radio and no VHF, no phone," Carter said. "We were always out and about, we'd go sliding down [in the snow]."
Carter said Rose was a quiet child, but always smiling, much like her father in his portrait at the school.
Rhoda Johnson, who grew up in Noorvik, remembers Rose the same way.
"We used to see her here and there and she'd always be in a good mood, smiling," Johnson said as she chopped honeydew melon for a fruit salad to be served at the ceremony. "We're proud she's from Noorvik."
After high school, Rose moved away. She started working for Alaska Airlines and eventually met Mike Dunleavy. In a video from his campaign, Dunleavy described how the two met by chance in Nome more than 30 years ago.
"I was playing basketball on a team that her brother-in-law was on and we met at the sister-in-law's house in Nome for dinner," Dunleavy said. "That's the first time we met."
In the same clip, Rose Dunleavy describes her family's reaction to the relationship.
"My family, they're great. I mean they're really, really accepting," Rose said. "Their thing was they wanted to keep a little bit of tradition to where, you know, there was a lot of hunting and fishing, which was Mike anyway."
Rose's mother and father have both passed, but her older brother Gordon Newlin still lives in Noorvik and works at the school named after their father.
"It never really jumped to me until the awarding is done," Newlin said after he was asked for his reaction to Rose becoming Alaska's first lady. "I never thought the whole thing will come this way. Most of the time the swearing in occurs in Anchorage or in Juneau."
It was a surprise to many and an honor that Noorvik was chosen for the ceremony. Newlin describes it as a "quiet" village; one that's now the center of national attention ahead of Monday's event that will serve as a tribute to rural Alaskans and the first lady's family.
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