Former resident Leatha Vada Aitken dies at 90

Former Wrangell resident Leatha Vada Aitken "went home to her Lord" on July 19, in Juneau surrounded by family.

Vada, as she was known, was born Nov. 12, 1931, to James Virgil and Maude Briscoe in Healdton, Oklahoma, and grew up in nearby Fox. The farm life was not easy, but Vada had happy times, her family wrote, especially with cousins Judy and JoAnn. Vada had two daughters with first husband, George Vaughan: Vicki, born in California, and Sandi, born in Juneau. After divorcing, Vada met and married Alan Aitken who added three stepdaughters, Sherry, Sandra and Melody.

Vada worked for banks in Haines and Wrangell before settling at the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau, retiring in 1990. Life after retiring included gardening, reading, indoor orchids, trips to Oklahoma and New York family, talking to her daughters every day and spending time with her beloved dogs Pepper, Molly, Hannah and Maggie. All cockapoos, "which she thought were the best dogs in the world," her family wrote.

She is survived by her loving husband of 45 years, Alan "Al" Aitken. "Vada was a kind, smart-as-a-whip person with a southern woman's wit and subtle independence," her family wrote. "She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who never met a cake she couldn't bake to perfection or a roast that didn't melt in your mouth."

Vada is lovingly remembered by her daughters Vicki Vaughan and Sandi (Robert) Shaw, of Juneau; step-daughters Sherry (Greg Knight) Aitken, of Sitka, Sandra (Chris LaValle) Empson, of Juneau, and Melody Anhalt, of Littleton, Colorado; seven grandchildren, Kyle Shaw of San Francisco, Amanda (Guillermo Palma) Empson of Juneau, Alexandra (Michael Krahling) Aitken of Prince Fredrick, Maryland, Adam (Virginia Veltri) Empson of Philadelphia, Julia Anhalt of Greenwood, South Carolina, Lindsey Anhalt of Littleton, Colorado, and Gabriel Knight of Oak Creek, Colorado; two great-grandchildren Sage and Makai of Juneau; and Oklahoma nieces and nephew. She was predeceased by her parents, brother Robert "Golden" Briscoe, and nephew Brett.

Other special people in Vada's life were Sarah McDaniel, Vicki's BFF from college who became another daughter to Vada and lifetime best friend Bea Rounsley of Juneau.

Vada requested to be cremated and her ashes will be spread in a favorite Juneau place as well as Oklahoma and New York. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Juneau. Call 925-326-7746 for Zoom link.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Juneau Animal Rescue or Southeast Alaska Food Bank.


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