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Obituary: Harriet Crocker Jackson Schirmer, M.D., 90

 

Harriet Schirmer

Harriet Crocker Jackson Schirmer, M.D., 90 died at Wrangell Medical Center, Wrangell, Alaska on July 10, 2017.

She was born on September 25, 1926 to Myron Robinson Jackson M.D. and Mildred Wicker Jackson M.D. in Oyster Bay, New York on the outskirts of New York City. In high school she competed in sailing and ping pong, and played flute in the band. She continued to enjoy all three activities well into her 60s.

Upon entering medical school at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, she felt strongly that the east coast was saturated with medical providers, and resolved to go somewhere her individual efforts would make a difference. Her first medical practice was established in 1959 in Bethel, Alaska where she also served a term as mayor. She was quite taken with the people living on and around the Kuskokwim River, even making house calls by dogsled when necessary. In October of 1961 she married Don Schirmer who was a site manager for one of the White Alice early warning stations nearby. They started a family and purchased a house as she continued her medical practice.

In 1964, they moved back to a family farm in western New York state but by 1970 the couple felt the pull of Alaska. After touring the state, a collection of favorable circumstances led them to Wrangell which had a new hospital and no doctor. They discovered a few old Alaska friends also in Wrangell and felt an instant affinity with the community. She set up her practice in Wrangell and continued here until retiring in 1988. She was very involved in Alaska emergency medicine and was pleased to be able to use her experiences as a frontier doctor to refine the level of care available for the unique challenges of our state. For the last 10 years of her practice, she and Don operated a medical vessel in the summers that made a circuit around the logging and fishing camps of the islands surrounding Wrangell.

Upon retiring, but still wishing to be of service, they volunteered to teach English in the re-emerging country of Mongolia. They made strong connections there, and for a time sponsored two Mongolian children to come and attend school in Wrangell.

Her remaining years were spent helping organize efforts in the community, including Wrangell Hospice, Hanna's place, and the Loan closet for home medical devices. At 73 years of age, she kayaked down the Stikine River with a group of four, an experience which she cherished and spoke of often for her remaining years. She loved to bake and photograph the flora and fauna around Wrangell. She enjoyed making patchwork quilts and wall hangings. She was always an avid reader, and enjoyed volunteering at the library. In March of this year, she self published a book of some of her life's stories, which she distributed to family and friends. (A copy is available at the library).

She was preceded in death by: husband Donald Kenneth; younger brothers Richard and Frederick Jackson; and family member Henrietta T. Collins.

She is survived by: son Jack Myron Schirmer; grandaughter Lillilan Marie Schirmer; grandson PFC Maxwell Donald Schirmer, U.S. Army and grandson Samuel Phillip Jackson Schirmer.

A memorial service will be held at the 1st Presbyterian Church of Wrangell at 2pm on July 29, 2017.

Her ashes will be scattered in a private ceremony the following Sunday.

In lieu of memorial contributions or flowers, it was her wish that donations be made to the deacons work of the 1st Presbyterian Church of Wrangell, or to the Heifer Project International.

 

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