Albert Matthew Kookesh, 72, died May 28, 2021, at his home in Angoon, surrounded by family and loved ones.
He was born on Nov. 24, 1948, in Juneau, to Matthew Albert Kookesh of Angoon and Ramona Delores (Herrera) Kookesh of Carrizozo, New Mexico.
He graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 1967, where he remains on the school’s basketball Hall of Fame. He graduated from, and played basketball for, Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University) in 1972, and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Washington School of Law in 1977.
Mr. Kookesh married his wife of 51 years, Sally Marie Woods, of Manley Hot Springs, on May 28, 1970, in Angoon, where they returned to raise their family after completing college and professional school.
In his professional career, Mr. Kookesh worked for Kootznoowoo Inc.; he was elected to the Alaska state Legislature, serving in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1997 to 2004 and the Alaska State Senate from 2004 to 2012; and worked in the administrations of Govs. Tony Knowles and Bill Walker.
He served on the Sealaska Corp. board of directors from 1976 until his passing, including as chair for 14 years; on the Alaska Federation of Natives board as co-chair for 16 years; with the Alaska Native Brotherhood as the Grand Camp president and as an Executive Committee member; as a trustee for the First Alaskans Institute; and as a trustee for the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Mr. Kookesh enjoyed basketball, especially the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, where he won 11 championships and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also enjoyed his life as a fisherman, hunting, the practice and protection of the traditional way of life, also known as subsistence.
His family writes that he also was known for his “mentorship and wisdom; his jokes and ‘true stories;’ and for his extreme love and devotion to his home village of Angoon and his family. He so loved his time with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. In his final days, he was so proud of his grandchildren for winning the regional high school 1A basketball tournament.”
Mr. Kookesh was Eagle of the Teikweidí (Brown Bear) clan, Child of the L’eeneidí (Dog Salmon) clan. His Tlingit name was Kaasháan, and he also had the name Yikdahéen.
Mr. Kookesh is preceded in death by his father, Matthew; mother, Ramona; brothers, Floyd and Edward; uncle, Walter Soboleff; aunt, Mary Nava; and grandson, Bentley.
He is survived by his wife, Sally; children, Elaine Jack and her husband Frank, Jaeleen Kookesh, Reanna Kookesh, Albert Kookesh III and his wife Shiann, Walter Kookesh and his wife Amanda, and Chenara Johnson and her husband Kyle; brothers, Matthew Kookesh, and Gordon (Lisa) Kookesh; sisters, Pauline (Al) Duncan, Nellie (Matsu) Kookesh, Martha Akagi, and Stella (Rocky) Estrada; uncle, Flavio Herrera; nephew, Edward “BeeBucks” (Jeannette) Kookesh; brothers- and sisters-in-law; many nieces and nephews; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, June 4, 2021, at the Kevin O’Brien Gymnasium of Angoon High School, in Angoon. The burial will take place at noon on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Killisnoo.