Rosemary Hagevig, a former Juneau Assembly member who for decades was active in community roles ranging from public education to hospital care, died early Thursday morning of brain cancer at her home at the age of 80.
Named Juneau’s citizen of the year in 1995, her lifetime of activities includes more than 30 years of leadership with Catholic Community Service, 27 years at the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development and most recently serving as vice president of Bartlett Regional Hospital’s board of directors.
Longtime friends said Hagevig was also a crucial player in keeping Juneau as the state capital, and her imprint is everywhere from the huge semi-circular viewing window at Dimond Park Aquatic Center to the homegrown plants she gave to countless people.
“She was a consummate community volunteer,” said Paulette Simpson, a Juneau resident for 45 years who like many has frequently interacted with Hagevig for decades on occupational and personal levels. “There wasn’t a thing she wouldn’t be there for.”
“What I loved about her was she had so much dimension,” Simpson said. “She was a master gardener and she shared her plants with everyone. How many people have plants from Rosemary?”
Hagevig, who had lived in Juneau since 1962, served two terms on the Juneau Assembly from 1994 to 1997. During that time she was one of 11 Alaskans selected to carry the Olympic Torch in 1996.
Laraine Derr, herself a longtime local activist who was named the Juneau Community Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Year in 2019, said she knew Hagevig for more than 40 years dating back to when they both worked in the education department’s then-tiny headquarters on the sixth floor of the State Office Building. They lived near each other in Douglas, their kids grew up together and over the decades they traveled to destinations ranging from South Africa to Hong Kong.
“Essentially, we went around the world together,” Derr said, including recently when “a year ago in December went to D.C. and did a Christmas tour of the White House.”
Derr said she considers Hagevig’s biggest impact to be her leadership at Catholic Community Services — serving on the board of directors and then as Executive Director and CEO of Catholic Community Service between 1990 and 2012. But Hagevig’s devotion to her other occupations was equally intense.
“Whenever somebody ran for office, she helped write many people’s political advertisements, she worked with people on the radio for ads. her political advice was sought after,” Derr said.
Keeping Juneau as the state capital is a role Hagevig also embraced doggedly, serving on the Alaska Committee for many years including as its vice chairperson at time of her death. Wayne Jenson, the committee’s chairperson and President of the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said he talked to Hagevig about 10 days ago — after she returned home following hospital treatment in Seattle — and “she was concerned she might not be able to participate in the Alaska Committee meetings.”
“Every committee she served on she gave them her best,” he said.
On a personal level Jenson said his memories of Hagevig are “she was just a good friend, she had a good sense of humor, she knew all the history of Alaska.” Among the community enhancements he credits her with is what he calls “Rosemary’s window” at Dimond Park while serving on an advisory committee.
“She wanted to make sure parents and grandparents had a good place to sit inside the lobby watching their kids or grandkids taking swimming lessons,” he said.
Hagevig’s lengthy participation list of other organizations and activities includes AARP Alaska, Southeast Conference, Alaska Municipal League, League of Women Voters, Alaska Pioneer Homes and Juneau Gastineau Rotary.
She began serving as a board member on Bartlett’s Board of Directors in January 2018, serving as vice president since 2019.
“The entire board sends our thoughts and prayers to Rosemary’s family,” Board President Kenny Solomon-Gross said in a prepared statement. “She will be missed by so many people in this community. I know I am a better person for knowing and working with her. Bartlett benefitted tremendously from her leadership.”
Hagevig is survived by her three adult children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
• Contact Reporter Mark Sabbatini at Mark.Sabbatini@juneauempire.com.