Gwen McDonald

Gwen (Hammersland) McDonald


Gwen Lee (Hammersland) McDonald, 63, passed away on April 15, 2021, in Ketchikan, Alaska.

She was born Gwen Lee Hammersland on June 28, 1957 at Smith Memorial Hospital in Decorah, Iowa.

Gwen attended South Winneshiek Community School, graduating in 1975 and then attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa through 1977. She transferred to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, and graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.

She taught special needs preschool in Clinton, Iowa, from 1980 to 1982, and in New Ulm, Minnesota from 1982 to 1984. In 1984, Gwen graduated with a Master of Arts from Mankato State University in Mankato, Minnesota and headed to Alaska.

Gwen was employed as a special needs preschool teacher in Ketchikan, Alaska from 1984 to 2011. In addition, she worked as an assisted living provider and an adjunct professor for early childhood education at the University of Alaska Southeast, Ketchikan campus. In recent years, she also assisted clients through the Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) programs in Ketchikan.

Gwen was a member of First Lutheran Church in Ketchikan. 

She enjoyed sewing crafts, including bears, geese, bunnies & dolls. She shared her quilting talents with gifts of table runners, placemats, wall hangings & quilts of all sizes. Gwen loved to redesign her interior spaces and enjoyed playing the flute and piano.

“Gwen authored many entertaining lengthy letters which she shared with family and friends,” her family writes. “She tried to keep in touch with everyone, no matter what the physical distance was.”

“Gwen is affectionately remembered for the joy and laughter that she brought to so many,” her family writes. “She truly enjoyed creating the preschool talent shows and holiday programs where she helped her students ‘shine.’ Outside of the classroom, Gwen was always a caretaker for all ages in need of her attention. After a fall in her home in 2011, Gwen was very brave through all of the challenges she faced in life.

Gwen was preceded in death by her father, Harold H. Hammersland Jr.; grandparents, Harold M. and Agnes Hammersland, and Ray and Olea Kenyon; and brothers-in-law, Thomas Torres, Sr. and Mark Jack.

She is survived by her husband, Roger McDonald; mother, Gladys Hammersland of Ossian, Iowa; sisters, Thea (Bob) Adams of Buffalo, Minnesota, Beth Hammersland-Torres of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Nena Jack of Seattle, Washington; brothers, Eric (LuAnn) Hammersland of Sedalia, Missouri, Leon (Anna) Hammersland of Festina, Iowa, and Neil (JoAnn) Hammersland of Hawkeye, Iowa; nephews and nieces, Henry (Shoko) Adams, Sara Cardwell, Bret (Amber) Hammersland, Shanna (Jason) Preul, Lisa (Brian) Schadler, Brent (Ashley) Bushman, Jessie and Nicole Bushman, Dr. Jamie (Amy) Hammersland, Dustin (Kerri) Hammersland, Brice (Callie) Hammersland, Dillon (Jennie) Hammersland, TJ Hammersland-Torres, Antoinina (Cody) Hammersland-Hazel and Logan Hammersland; and extended family, Jean Mendenhall of St. Paul, Minnesota and Cecelia, Sierra and Sienza Chandler of Ketchikan, Alaska.

A Celebration of Gwen’s Life will be held at a later date. Her remains will be interred at the Stavanger Lutheran Church Cemetery near Ossian. 



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