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By Marc Lutz
Wrangell Sentinel 

Lifelong resident finds healing through Facebook history page

 

Marc Lutz/Wrangell Sentinel

Augie Schultz uses his Facebook page - "Wrangell yesterday. place where old friends stop and remember" - to find healing through memories of the community he has called home his entire life.

August Schultz Jr. was born June 23, 1960, in a hospital that's now an apartment building in Wrangell. He grew up in a house up behind that hospital, surrounded by family.

Schultz, known to friends as Augie, still lives in the same house, though alone, being the last living member of his immediate family. Though it's been hard, he has found healing through the town's history in the form of a Facebook page.

At his therapist's suggestion, Schultz created "Wrangell yesterday - place where old friends stop and remember" on Facebook. He uses it to post old photos, newspaper clippings and other items of nostalgia. Members who join the page are able to do the same, creating a sense of community.

"That page has been incredible, and he's done an awesome job on that," said lifelong friend Janell Privett. "He still does the research. People have added to it. So many people have found family members and great memories."

Privett said she could send Schultz on a research project and he would dig in, often to his own detriment, hunching over newsprint or the library's microfiche machines trying to "find one more thing."

Helping others has been Schultz's default setting from the beginning. "My dad said, 'Don't hit your sisters and take care of your brothers.' So, I did. My whole life, that's what I did," he said.

When he wasn't taking care of his family, Schultz was working. He's had a total of only three different jobs in his life, first working at the sawmill from 1980-1994, then working for the Wrangell Cooperative Association and Tlingit & Haida Regional Housing Authority from 1994-2012, and finally working for the Stikine Inn until present.

In his late teens, Schultz left Wrangell to attend Bellingham Vocational Institute in Washington to study carpentry. That education was short-lived when he discovered he "couldn't read a book to save my life."

He said he has attention-deficit disorder, making it difficult to retain information by reading. Instead, Schultz has learned by watching others perform a task first, then repeating it himself. His father, who people called Rabbit, said Schultz was "too nice" for the world, dissuading his son from attending college.

Even though he was considered nice when growing up, Schultz had a mischievous side.

"He always had the big gumballs," Privett said. "I was the dentist's daughter, so he smuggled them to me."

Beyond sneaking sweets, Privett said their group of friends were always "doing shenanigans," yet if somebody needed help, Schultz was right there, ready to be of assistance.

Schultz, who turns 62 on Thursday, said helping others and hearing their stories has been one of his greatest joys. Working at the Stik as a driver or behind the front desk has allowed him to meet a lot of people and learn about them. However, he admits, that can be temporary.

"I'm a people person," he said. "I just like to learn about people. I can't remember the stories or names, but I remember the faces."

In 2007, his helpful nature was lauded when Schultz was presented with the Alaska Commendation Medal by then-Gov. Sarah Palin "for outstanding service in the state of Alaska, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the Alaska Army National Guard, and the community of Wrangell, Alaska." His efforts to help recruit and retain guardsmen in Wrangell to keep the armory open led to the commendation.

The Facebook page is a reflection of Schultz's love of the history of Wrangell, especially during his childhood. He can recall where various businesses were, such as the art gallery being a dime store and the building that now houses the Sentinel being the movie theater. He remembers when the Airport Loop and Bennett Street didn't exist, nor did Evergreen Elementary or the neighboring hospital building.

"The shooting range used to be where the (old) hospital is," Schultz said. "The city limits used to be right where the police station is."

Schultz also fondly remembers his father taking the family down to Olive Cove to their cabin, teaching the children to swim, fish, dig for clams and hunt.

Over the years, Schultz provided care for his family where he could. Though he was third youngest child of three girls and four boys, he is the only one left after his younger brother Lester died last October. He stays in contact with the handful of nieces and nephews he has left.

Schultz has been sober for 23 years and stays active, walking every day, though he still has health issues, one of which is the effects of long-COVID. Privett said friends in their high school class still check on him "probably more than he'd like to know we are."

Those issues are what have Schultz considering retirement. He said when it gets too hard to commit to work, that's when he'll retire and commit to taking better care of himself, though he said it's hard for him not to focus on helping others.

"I took care of my family my whole life, but I did what I promised my dad I would do," he said.

 

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