Obituary: Grace Berg Schaible
Our aunt, Grace Berg Schaible, passed away in Fairbanks on June 9, 2017, at the age of 91.
In the days after her passing, much was written about her professional accomplishments and her contributions to Alaska. Rather than repeat that, we will share the family side of her life.
Schaible was the youngest of three children of Hans and Mandis Berg of Juneau. She was born in Tacoma, Wash. (to her lifelong chagrin), arriving in Juneau when she was a few weeks old. She graduated from Juneau High, and after working to earn college money, she enrolled at the University of Alaska. She graduated in 1949 with a history degree.
After earning a master's degree at George Washington University, Schaible attended Yale Law School, graduating in 1959. She married Dr. Arthur Schaible of Fairbanks in New York on Christmas 1958, and moved to Fairbanks in 1959 to practice law. She passed the bar exam in 1960, becoming the first female attorney to be admitted to practice after statehood.
In addition to her professional law practice, Schaible led a very active life. She and Arthur traveled extensively, starting with a honeymoon in Africa, and including multiple trips to Europe and Africa, taking the trans-Siberian railroad (during the Soviet era), and sailing on tramp steamers in the Pacific and Atlantic.
In the 1960s, Schaible started raising Great Pyrenees show dogs. She had an extensive kennel at her cabin near Fairbanks, and in the winter the dogs took over most of her garage space. She raised several champions and grand champions during the '60s and '70s.
After Arthur died in 1980, Schaible continued to travel. She was on the first tourist ship to transit the Northwest Passage in 1984, and continued to travel extensively in the Arctic up to 2015, including over 60 trips to Svalbard to see polar bears. During this time, she became a serious collector of Inuit and other Arctic and polar-bear themed art. She also traveled five times to the Canadian Arctic, twice to Antarctica, and took three trips down the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Schaible had a lifelong love of classical music. She studied piano and organ during her childhood, becoming an accomplished pianist. She supported classical music programs through her life, including KUAC's opera broadcast and the Sitka Music Festival. She subscribed to the Seattle Opera, and traveled to New York and Europe to hear music.
Schaible was a needlepoint fanatic. She hosted a lunchtime needlepoint session at her law firm starting in the 1980's. She made pillows, Christmas ornaments and stockings for family and friends, and provided "Crimson Tiger" needlepoint coasters for her entire 50th high school reunion.
Beginning in the 1980's, Schaible celebrated Christmas together with other family members. For several years, Schaible spent Christmas in England and hosted family members during the holidays. Later, the holidays were spent in California at her sister's home, with Schaible bringing salmon and other Alaskan specialties for the occasion.
Schaible was a lifelong philanthropist. Although she is recognized for her many gifts to the University of Alaska, she supported numerous other groups in Alaska and elsewhere. She was a strong supporter of the Literacy Council. She was active in the World Wildlife Fund and other organizations to support polar bear conservation.
Schaible was preceded in death by her husband Arthur in 1980 and her older brother Clifford Berg in 2005. She was survived by her sister Sylvia (Berg) Drowley, and nephews Dave, Jeff and Cliff Drowley.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate Schaible's life at the Patty Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
The family asks that any donations in Schaible's memory be made to FMH Hospice, PO Box 71396, Fairbanks, Alaska 99707.