John and Louise Maakestad - Tape #ORAL HISTORY 2006-15-30-tp2
John and Louise Maakestad were interviewed by William Schneider and Karen Brewster on December 8, 2010at their apartment at the Anchorage Pioneer Home in Anchorage, Alaska.
Return to part one of this interview.
Click to section:
Section 1: Dealing with a patient at Alaska Psychiatric Institute who unexpectedly killed his roommate.
Section 2: The unpredictability of mental illness and the treatment of patients at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
Section 3: Safety issues when working with criminal patients, and other staff he worked with at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
Section 4: Effect of age on memory and quality of current living situation.
Section 5: Early stages of diagnosis of their daughter with developmental disabilities.
Section 6: Services and help their daughter has received in Anchorage.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: -- patient, he was from Boston, and he spoke with an interesting slight Boston accent. And he -- he had very peculiar habits. My name, Maakestad, has a double A, and so he would pronounce it Ma-ak-e-stad, Ma-ak-e-stad, as you see, rather than in the Norwegian, a double A is "Mah." But anyway, it's a terrible thing. One night he went over to his roommate and he had gotten a -- a hunting knife and he cut the other patient's throat, and he was a nice kid. They -- I mean, they were both about 20 -- in late twenties, and see, I can't even remember names, but that's good.
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, that's good.
KAREN BREWSTER: We don't want names. JOHN MAAKESTAD: We wouldn't need that or want it. But anyway, I went to -- well, this -- this fellow, one Sunday morning, I came up to conduct the service at API, and there was a circle of -- a clutch of nursing patient -- nursing personnel, and some other people down there, and in -- in the center of attention and being helped was this fellow from Boston. And he had gotten out a third-story window, I think it was, and it was a low building, then, below it, and so the roof was flat, so this Boston boy had run to the edge and he jumped off. I said, what did you do that for? And I used his name or whatever. And he said -- and this is what he told me, he said, I thought I would fly like Superman. You know. And it just shows you the very real mistakes that they make.
Well, this same fellow, then, had -- he was a sleeping giant, you see, and this ugly giant had awakened late at night. I said, why did you cut your roommate's throat like that? And he said, because he snored. Yeah. He snored. His snoring bugged me. Well, that's unexpected. He hadn't, that we -- as far as we'd known, acted so belligerently to -- but -- and then I went into the -- I guess the superintendent called me in to ask me what -- what do you find about this fellow who had cut the throat of his roommate? And I said, well, I had asked him about it and he had complained about snoring. I said I snore, too. You know.
And I was talking to the superintendent and I said, and here is how flagrant he thinks and --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's stop for a second.
(Off record momentarily.) BILL SCHNEIDER: And you said to the superintendent?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah, I said to the superintendent, he -- he told me that -- he told me this. He said, yes, I cut his throat, and I should have cut about seven more. There were nursing personnel on -- on his ward, you know. Now, he -- he had been reprimanded and restricted, which sounds poppycock, but he was -- I think he -- well, he was under restraint anyhow. I -- I don't want to give the impression that API's security was loose. They -- they had one or two that were on the security unit that were in for murder, and they would spend the rest of their lives in there. Section 2:
KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-hum. Now, why didn't they -- why did they stay at API instead of being put in the prison system?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Because they had these strange mental aberrations, and I -- I can't remember specific now just what it might be, but it -- he -- you know, I remember he was a little -- a little fellow, very muscular, and I've forgotten what his crime was. It was murder of some family member or whatever it may have been.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so there are some patients who stayed there because they were never --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- able to go back --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Uh-hum. Chronic.
KAREN BREWSTER: They were chronic patients.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. There are.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then other people were there short term and were --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- healed and able to go home? JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. Yes, that's the way it goes. The strange nature of mental illness, and psychiatrists and psychologists get the different aspects of mental aberrations and problems, and they can do quite well at predicting that other -- that certain people will be -- what -- what is it they call it -- recoverable or they -- you know, they can be -- and you see they were giving this fellow that shot the three teenagers, just a terrible thing, that he wiped out three young people, you know. And he -- some witness -- see, he came by in the early morning and walked through Russian Jack Springs Park there, and he -- he saw their little tent, and he was in there going through their tapes and so on, and -- and the young people came -- came back and surprised him, and so he stood up and he was Almighty God with a gun, you know, and he just wiped the three lives out.
Well, he was, you know, on work release when he shouldn't have been. I mean, there was a slip-up that they misfigured. Section 3:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Did you ever feel that your life was endangered or that you were in a difficult position?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: I think -- yes. You know, there's one thing -- now, I was at San Quentin Prison, I told you, and -- and there the chaplain said, now, you have to recognize that if you go inside the walls, we won't rescue you, we can't -- we can't promise to do that. And that goes for all of the security people. They -- so -- but you accept that, you know, as one of the hazards of what you're doing. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you talk about any of the other staff at API in particular, people that --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- stand out in your memory?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. And they can talk about me. And how did you mean?
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, ones that stand out in your memory, people you worked with, and what -- what the staff was like. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Okay. When I came to API, there was an old psychiatrist who was -- he had been on the staff of the University of California, and Dr. Bowman. And he was a very -- he was a very capable man and a very articulate, but he was an elderly man. Like I am now, probably in his 90s or so. And he -- but I admired him in his position.
And how -- I got into a little misunderstanding with one of the head psychologists over some little matter. I -- it was when I was new out there and I -- he -- this little Eskimo boy had told me that he was supposed to get me to read a Scripture at the next staff meeting. And as I say, I was new and -- to the situation.
And so there was -- in department heads, there was an exchange of comments there, and I said, I understand that I misunderstood in this situation, and anyway, he -- Dr. Bowman handled it in such a professional way, you know. And he -- and the head psychiatrist, Dr. Robbins? -- no. I can't say his name right now. But we were good friends, and he understood how I explained how I had been taken in by this Eskimo boy. And part of it was that he was from Shishmaref, and I had known him. Peter Tuktu (phonetic). So -- but that's not a serious matter, but it's one of the realities. Section 4:
KAREN BREWSTER: And what other doctors or staff members you worked with?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: The one that moved to Portland, you thought highly of him.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes. Yes. Dr. -- hmm. You know, it is terrible.
KAREN BREWSTER: It's a long time ago to remember. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Memory bank, you know it's there.
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, you -- no, the thing is, you'll think of it when we leave. That's the way it is.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, it often happens that way.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So you shouldn't feel badly.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that's fine.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: You've given us a great deal.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: That particular administrator was so positive in his --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Can you say his name?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: I can't, John. I'm sorry. Oh, boy. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, you know, ask me more, if you have a mind to.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Too many years.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: There are a few, but it's a strange experience for -- you know, I've been -- had a pretty good memory, but -- and I depend on it, and it's just a blank wall there. BILL SCHNEIDER: But as you know, being someone who works in the helping field --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- that -- that this whole aging process is -- is such a natural thing.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And we -- we fight it.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Uh-hum. BILL SCHNEIDER: And we don't understand or accept it. You know, it's like people my age being concerned with all these drugs that will make them more active physically, where they don't accept the fact that their bodies are changing.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: You know what I mean?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. Absolutely.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So I would think as a pastor, that this would be something that, you know, would be very, very close to your understanding.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. BILL SCHNEIDER: But you do great. I think --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, thank you.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think your life here is a good move. I mean, you're in a secure place.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Thank you. Yes. We -- we both enjoy reading, so we have reading material, and --
BILL SCHNEIDER: I see that.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Loussac Library comes over and brings book. Section 5:
KAREN BREWSTER: I have one more question before we finish.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Sure. Sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: As parents of a developmentally disabled child, you talked about her experiences in Harborview. And I'm wondering your assessment of going through that system of trying to get help for her and -- and how that functioned and did you feel satisfied with that, or did you -- were there challenges and frustrations along the way? JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, quickly, I was pastor at Nome when Muriel was born, and the assessment of Muriel's condition or Muriel's development was in Louise's purview, and so I just more or less looked to her to explain. She'd say, Muriel isn't cooing or doing something. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And there were early signs that she wasn't developing. I think when I looked back that I should have had more advice --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah, that's what I was trying to --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: -- from the medical people in Nome to take her at least to Anchorage for. At that time, Dr. Helen Whaley was the only pediatric -- pediatric neurologist, because she did see her when she was a year old, and at that time Dr. Whaley, who is a fine Stanford medical graduate, she said, yes, Muriel has severe neurological impairment. But you know, a lot can happen in a year if you have more infant stimulation. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But when you tried to get help for her here in Anchorage, and the services, who did you turn to for help and how did that work?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, actually, that one time when I saw Dr. Helen Whaley, she had come to Nome for consultation for babies and children, and I -- I -- I was frustrated because I felt, now, do I just tell John, I'm packing up, we're leaving, because she's not going to get what she needs here? But I -- JOHN MAAKESTAD: That's what we should have done.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: I was well brought up to think, well, you know --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Hindsight.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: You know, it's hindsight. After normal babies, you keep hoping, well, I'll do what I can for her but, you know, that is -- you need to really get on it. By the time we went to Berkeley, she was already three, and not -- JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. That was part, a little bit why we chose Berkeley.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, yeah. You know, it was delayed. Now when I see a child that I spot, I just really encourage the parent to immediately find out what they can because you're just delaying help. And it seems like they do -- they do. In the hospitals now babies are born, they are much quicker to spot -- to spot problems but -- Section 6:
KAREN BREWSTER: As she got older and you lived here in Anchorage, and she needed special help or services --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Special education.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- who helped you navigate that?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, Dr. -- at Special Ed, Margaret Lowe was her principal, and, you know, she could see that Muriel -- and her behavior became so frustrating to the teachers and to fellow students, that she would act out so much. And it increased to the point when she would hit her -- got into her teens, I just felt we've got to do something because she's so terribly unhappy at home in the family. She would pull her sister's hair and she would just do a lot of acting out. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. Destroyed property.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah. But you know, it was --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: She'd go into the garage and she'd cut some bungee cords that I had in there, she found an old knife on the --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah. Well, anyway.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Just what kind of acting out. KAREN BREWSTER: And is Hope Cottages, is that here in Anchorage?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: That is. She's under the umbrella of Hope -- Hope Resources, Incorporated. They changed the name.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you explain what Hope Cottages is and what those services are?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yes, it's for all types of handicaps of mental and physical also, and they must have over 20 group homes, and Muriel's in a very nice one. She has her own -- own room. She's already 51 years old. And it's over there on Lake Otis, and we visit her and we -- we have her with us at least one weekend a month. And she -- she calls this the grampa and grandma group home. Her talking ability is still at about five years old. But we're just pleased that she has a good program. And Hope Resources, I can confer with them any time, because at times, I feel that we need to move further South and how -- how would you manage moving her because that's no small project in itself. So but I think as of right now, her program is well suited to her, so...
KAREN BREWSTER: Do they have activities?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: It seems like at Harborview they had activities that the residents did. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah. They had a real program there. She -- she had been swimming and enjoyed that very much, but her seizures, after 19 years of absence, her grand mal seizures came back, and the neurologist said you better not have her go swimming for a while.
And she's gained too much weight. She has a person that comes in and takes her four hours a day for mental stimulation in the community, they go to the library, they go many different places, and that is helping her right now. But it's an up-and-down program. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, thank you very much.
Bill, do you have any other questions?
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, I think that's good. I appreciate your sharing and appreciate your personal comments, too. I know it's not easy, but this gives us --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Did you ever hear of Dr. Carl Koutsky?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Koutsky. He was the one I couldn't say. That's the one I thought that was -- JOHN MAAKESTAD: He's the most outstanding psychiatrist that I've been acquainted with. He came from the University of Minnesota, and he passed away here about a year ago. But he was an excellent man.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Did you see that he really put API on the good --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, he helped, you know. This old Dr. Bowman I told you, the first one here.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: He was a good one. JOHN MAAKESTAD: They had good people that they'd get from University of Minnesota or University of California.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Dr. Koutsky. Well, you thought of his name faster than I did.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, it comes slowly, like you say.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Wish we had done this interview 10 years ago.
BILL SCHNEIDER: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No, that's great.
Is there anything else that you we haven't asked you about that you had wanted to make sure and talk about?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: No. I -- I'm just very pleased that you're doing the work that you're doing, and I'm trying to put it all together, but I know if it's in the interest of mental health and treatment of -- of associated problems that it's wonderful. Yeah. I'd like to see your program some day.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, thank you very much.
John and Louise Maakestad - Tape #ORAL HISTORY 2006-15-30-tp1
John and Louise Maakestad were interviewed by William Schneider and Karen Brewster on December 8, 2010at their apartment at the Anchorage Pioneer Home in Anchorage, Alaska. John was born in Petersburg, Alaska, became a Lutheran pastor, served in Shishmaref and Nome in the 1950s and early 1960s, and served as the chaplain at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute from 1963-1984. In this interview, John talks about his ministry career working with the mentally ill and the specialized training he received in pastoral care. In addition, as parents of a developmentally disabled daughter, the Maakestads discuss delivery of and access to services for the developmentally disabled.
Part two of this interview.
Click to section:
Section 1: John Maakestad talks about being born and raised in Petersburg, Alaska, and following in the footsteps of his father to become a Lutheran pastor.
Section 2: His education and training, and getting involved with pastoral care issues.
Section 3: His training in pastoral care in California.
Section 4: Louise Maakestad talks about meeting and marrying her husband, John, and their early years of living in Shishmaref and Nome.
Section 5: Working as staff chaplain at Alaska Psychiatric Hospital and McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage, Alaska.
Section 6: Responsibilities of staff chaplain, including patient consultation and holding religious services in the hospital.
Section 7: Importance of having clergy involved in delivery of mental heath services and how acceptance of that has changed.
Section 8: Personally benefiting from mental health services for their developmentally disabled daughter and another daughter who was diagnosed bipolar.
Section 9: Sending their daughter to Harborview Hospital in Valdez, Alaska.
Section 10: Difficulties for patients being separated from family, encouraging family visits, and changes in medical care in the villages.
Section 11: The pros and cons of family visitation to patients and of returning a patient home, and living in Shishmaref in the 1950s.
Section 12: Types of counseling provided by clergy.
Section 13: Assessment of Alaska Psychiatric Institute's treatment program, and example of a patient on work release who committed murder.
BILL SCHNEIDER: All right. Well, today is December 8th. Seems like this month is flying by already.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: It is.
KAREN BREWSTER: 2010.
BILL SCHNEIDER: 2010. And I'm Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster's with me. And we have the pleasure today of doing an interview with John and Louise Maakestad, and we're here in the Pioneer Home in Anchorage in their lovely apartment. And you've been here just about a year, you say?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yes. BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum. So thank you for taking time to meet with us and talk.
Let's begin a little bit about where you were brought up and how you got involved in your life's work. And John, we'll start with you.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, I'm a native-born Alaskan, I'm going to say, though not of one of the Native tribes, but one of the immigrant groups that have come in to Alaska and the United States in quite large numbers. And I'm speaking of the Norwegian population that has become part of the citizenship of Alaska.
My father was a Lutheran pastor, and the Norwegian people are largely of Norwegian -- of Lutheran faith, denominational wise. And so his first parish was in Petersburg and his first pastoral experience was from '17, that is 1917, to '20.
I was born in 1918, and we moved South from Petersburg in 1920. Then my -- at that time, my father began a mission development among the Norwegians in Pasadena, California, were quite a number of Midwestern Scandinavians, particularly Norwegians, in -- in the way in which we are speaking. So that's how I came to be born in Alaska. And my father was called back to serve an additional time at Petersburg in 1928, and he was there for five years. During that time I was 10 to 15, and so that's my experience in Alaska. And then as an adult, I felt the call into the Lutheran ministry and became a pastor, and I also have served congregations in Alaska as my father did. So... Section 2:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Did you get your schooling in Alaska?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: The lower grades, that was true, but my -- my graduate work was done in the Midwest at one of our seminaries, Luther seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. And so otherwise, I -- my schooling was not inclusive of the schools in Alaska, other than special symposiums, or whatever, were carried on in the -- in the line of Christian ministry and how it relates to the problems of life. And I was always particularly interested, after World War II there was a great deal of emphasis on holistic treatment of human illness, as you well know, and I was glad to be a part of that because the spiritual nature of human -- humanity or humankind is inclusive of why am I here and why do these things happen to me. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And what year was it that you left for your mental health training to be a chaplain?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes. That was -- let's see. Louise? I --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: '62?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. It would be in the summer of '63, wasn't it? That's all right, dear. It's quite immaterial. But I had come to a point where I had a year of sabbatical for study, and at that time, the religious forces of -- of society were trying to step into rhythm with the rest of human life, and -- and the human helping activities available, such as social work and -- and mental health. The idea was for clergy to become acquainted with the in-depth work of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and of course, nursing -- the nursing emphasis or the particular part that they have in holistic treatment of human problems. BILL SCHNEIDER: So this was specialized training that you got?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. There were two religious agencies that had developed after the World War II, and they were particularly interested in how pastoral care could be helpful in treatment of human problems. And those two agencies, the Institute for Pastoral Care and the -- the other agency that developed became a part of that Institute for Pastoral Care. They went through a process of consolidating. And these included Protestant and Catholic, as well as whatever their religious affiliation a person might claim or have. Yeah. Section 3:
Have I gone afield, or --
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, I think you're -- I think you're doing a fine --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well --
BILL SCHNEIDER: I was just trying to figure out how to ask you about how that training, then, fit into your life's work.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Uh-hum. All right. I find -- found myself with a year of sabbatical freedom to pursue studies related to the work of pastoral care that I was in. And so I had a very good social work person, an elderly single woman, she was a Dane, and she -- she was a social worker, and had done time in Europe working in the Red Cross structure, and she said, why don't you take a quarter of clinical pastoral education? That's what they began calling this where clergy were requested to come along and make contributions and insights and so on from the spiritual side of human problems. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And instead of just having a quarter, you found out that you could have four quarters in the --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. The first quarter was done at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley, California, so I moved our family down there and we leased a house for a year because I decided that I was going to take a full year, that was four quarters, three-month quarters was how it was offered. And people like the administrator of the -- the hospitals and other staff members would be included in their care plans and so on. So -- so my first orientation and exposure to this -- this point of view, this way of going about treatment of human ills. And part of that was done at the University of California. The first month and a half or six weeks was done over at Herrick Hospital, which is general medical/surgical. Then I was transferred over to University of California in San Francisco in pediatrics and -- pediatrics and cancer research. So I worked in that milieu. And then the next quarter was at San Quentin Prison with the correction aspect. So they were very thorough exposures. You -- in fact, I was assigned to two men on death row, you know, and went with one of them, I went home at five o'clock on Tuesday, and at ten o'clock the next morning he was scheduled to be executed. And they used the gas chamber. But when I came to work at eight o'clock and was going to walk with him down the last mile, as they say, the -- some lawyers had found some way to delay it, and so that man, he actually died in prison. They kept delaying his -- there were all kinds of maneuvering, you know, to -- it was a feather in the lawyer's cap to have delivered a man from the gas chamber. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And your last quarter? The last quarter for the mental --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes, Louise. She hurries me along, and that's needed very much.
After I had been in a correctional setting, then I was able to get into Metropolitan State Hospital down in Norwalk, California, which is a 4,000-bed mental hospital, or was at that time. And that was my third quarter, then. And the final quarter was completed at Norwalk. So I had general hospital at Berkeley and cancer research in San Francisco. So it gives you the idea that these organizations, the Institute for Pastoral Care, were interested in making a connection for therapy and the benefit of humanity. And particularly in our health structure here in the United States.
I am afraid I have gone far afield, but -- BILL SCHNEIDER: No, that's -- that's okay. That background --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Is -- general rambling is acceptable.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That background must have prepared you pretty well for --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: It did.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- coming back to do the work here.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: It was very interesting, too. Section 4:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Before we get into getting you back to Alaska, though --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- let's ask Louise about how you met John and raising a family. And I suppose you had your family in California at that point?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yes. That was interesting because we'd had seven years in Alaska, we had had twelve years in Alaska, he served a parish in Fairbanks five years, and then had the call to the little village of Shishmaref, and we had been there three years and then to Nome for four years, and by that time we had five children when he had this opportunity for pastoral clinical education. And it was, you know, a change, but we had realized that the Native people were in a time of change, too, this way, that we were seeing more mental problems, and -- and John wanted to be more of help to them that way.
And then we had had one child that had severe developmental disabilities that was born in Nome, and we were eager for her to have an evaluation. But back to the time when we met as young people, our families knew each other, and we've always said our courtship was more by letter than -- because he's nine years older than I am, but we -- I grew up in North Texas near Amarillo, Texas. My father was a cattle rancher and wheat farmer. And one summer I went to the University of Bould -- of Colorado at Boulder and John's mother lived near there, so anyway, we became engaged and were married in 1948 in Texas. And I followed him to his first parish up near Everett, Washington, and from there he had the call to Alaska. So that's where we are. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, we should go back to those earlier years a little bit when you were in Shishmaref and -- Kotzebue, did you say?
KAREN BREWSTER: Nome.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Nome.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Nome.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Nome, yes.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Seven years on the Seward Peninsula.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Which is south of Nome. Kotzebue is -- let's see, Nome is south of Kotzebue. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And it was very much a subsistence life-style in those days. You know, people had no electricity and they had no -- they -- it was interesting to watch how the seasonal work. Shishmaref very much had a pattern of seasonal work from catching herring by net in the fall and going up rivers with their fishing in the summer, and I just really marveled at how much food they could put away for their large families, and rugged life-style they had. KAREN BREWSTER: What years were you there?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: We were in Shishmaref from '55 to '58, and in Nome until '62, and that's when he found out about this pastoral -- clinical pastoral education that was an opportunity. Section 5:
BILL SCHNEIDER: And then you came back from that training --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And where was the next place?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, you see, at that time, in '58 to '62 was when I was in Nome, and that's when I made the decision to go into clinical training after that period. That -- it was then that I decided that I would apply for this scholarship and made plans to move to California for a year. And so...
BILL SCHNEIDER: But when you came back from -- from the fellowship --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh. Oh, yes. From --
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- what was your next assignment? JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. During that time, you see, Alaska had become a state, and Alaska was seeking to build up its -- its structure to function in this new, wonderful experience and freedom of statehood. And so they were building the psychiatric hospital and they needed a qualified clergy to be this staff chaplain. And I applied for that. I had done a little forethought about it, you know, I knew that it was coming up and I saw or heard the building plans for API.
API had already been built, then when I came, and so they had the structure and so on. And it just was a matter of stepping into the role. And I really had to introduce the idea of chaplaincy in institutions, the helping institutions, hospitals, and...
And so I was accepted and became a member of API's staff, but I also served in McLaughlin Youth Center halftime for a while when they -- because they needed chaplain services periodically. BILL SCHNEIDER: Tell us about your duties at API.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Uh-hum. Well, we used to think in concepts of the reason for having a chaplain, a religious person of bona fide qualifications such as being an ordained pastor and being accepted as a person of the helping professions, a qualified person, and so I would sit in on the staff meetings and help with -- that is, accept the role of consultation for individual patients. And then as chaplain, I was not only available for consultation with, you know, we had a young lady that said she was the Virgin Mary and she was expecting a child; I mean, such things as that the chaplain would deal with. And then the chaplain would also be available for staff members asking about particular, oh, dietary abstinence in various ways as -- as requested by the religious, like fish on Friday and somehow or other, that's just a minor consideration, but -- and I arranged for the attendance of orthodox patients at the special Christmas services, you know, they are a week later than the rest of Christendom, but that's a big segment of Christendom, too, the Orthodox. Section 6:
BILL SCHNEIDER: I was wondering how you dealt with the woman who said she was the Virgin Mary.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. The psychiatrist was in charge of her, you know, and she -- today she's well married, mother of several more children, lives down in Florida, and she actually was the daughter of a Lutheran family that belonged to one of the Lutheran churches in south Fairbanks. Let's see. It's -- LOUISE MAAKESTAD: What are they?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Christ Our Saviour Lutheran Church, I think it is.
But it could have been any. And there were other denominational attachments that it didn't make any difference. There's something in the growing-up process that some -- some people have that they just -- they have to have some extraordinary reason for living, and it's just a part of the difficulties that they have to learn to deal with. And so this -- this young lady, as I say, is a very successful mother of her family. So --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: She had regular -- you had regular Sunday services and chapel services.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes, yes.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And family.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Excuse me, I --
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, that's all right. JOHN MAAKESTAD: That was a very important part of a chaplain's position, too, to provide a religious service within the hospital. There were many patients who could not leave the hospital, and so we -- we had a Sunday morning service and -- BILL SCHNEIDER: How did you -- how did you think about making that service in a way that it would be welcoming to different denominations?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Well, we -- we sought to make it a general Protestant service, and then we did have a Catholic, there was quite a large Catholic population, and so we had a priest come in once a week and conduct that service, but there were Catholic patients that would attend also the general service, which was Protestant in -- in its -- its structure. But acceptable. Yep.
I'm -- I don't -- am I --
BILL SCHNEIDER: No, that's fine. JOHN MAAKESTAD: -- getting -- yes. The chaplain provides religious services within the hospital.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: So I have said he -- he or she acts as a religious reference and -- within the hospital. He -- he functions as a part of the consultation and available for working out differences between patients and whatever medication or the requirements they have, and helping them to understand the treatment process and what it is for and why it's done and -- Section 7:
BILL SCHNEIDER: I would imagine that they would be very important to make sure that the spiritual aspects of people's lives weren't cut off when they became institutionalized.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. That is very true. And also, there are some times when religion must be removed or, you know, say, now, don't -- we won't participate in some peculiar religious rite. The little girl from -- a little Native girl, she was about 12 or 15, she came down from Nome and she put her foot under a hot water shower until she burned her foot, you know. And they said what are you trying to do? And she said, I'm trying to drive the evil spirits out. Well, that's a religious concept, and damaging your body in which the spirit lives will not be pleasing to God or helpful to yourself. I mean, there are problems of that nature. BILL SCHNEIDER: So you were able to help out, provide some --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes. And -- and there were some people that thought, well, mental illness is really a religious problem that we can exorcize, the religious term, you understand. Tell the spirit to flee. And you have to have realistic explanations and understanding or help.
It's been quite a few years, I was chaplain for 20 years, from '63 to '84. That's 20 years, isn't it? LOUISE MAAKESTAD: That's a long time ago now, since you've retired.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: The years have worked to fade.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Sure. Sure.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. But I remember with great satisfaction and gratitude that I could be a part of developing this aspect of religion as an active part of the treatment of human ills, so that -- so that a clergy is cast in a helpful -- helpful concept, so... BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. That's quite a change, isn't it?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. It -- it has been. And it now is very much accepted. For instance, there is a program out at Providence Medical Center that offers clinical pastoral education to clergy in Alaska, and when I was there, I was the only chaplain that had graduated, so to speak, or I had completed the four quarters required for -- which include corrections and mental health and physical mental -- medical/surgical problems.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But that's common now, you say?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes, it is. And accepted. Yeah. Section 8:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Back to your -- your family and -- how was your daughter treated? Did she receive the care she needed?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, we went to Shishmaref in '55 with three children, they were at that time four, two, and six months. And when we lived there, we had one more daughter, Ellen, and she was born in Nome; and then after we left Shishmaref and moved to Nome, then we had Muriel, who was born in '59, and that evening that she was born it was a big baby night. They had 12 babies, they had never had that many, and a set of twins. And Muriel had some breathing problems, and anyway, it turned out she had some brain damage that was much more severe than we thought at first. And I realized she -- we needed to get some more evaluation of her. And that was the way it was.
And we went to California, then, when she was three years old for John to take this clinical pastoral education, and she was evaluated then, and then we realized that she would need more attention. She didn't have that early infant stimulation that they have nowadays for kids, I think it would have helped her a great deal.
But anyway to make a long story short, she went through the Special Ed program here in Anchorage and is now in a group home, and she's not physically handicapped except for her mental age is about five years old or reading readiness age. And she's had various little jobs that -- under Assets, and they do a good job in Anchorage of helping these young people. And then we had one more child when we lived here in Anchorage, Carol. And now our children are scattered all over the world. We have a son teaching school in Saudi Arabia, oldest daughter is retired with her husband, went to Hawaii, and we still have Muriel here and our daughter Ellen. And our daughter Ellen is the one who developed a mental problem, bipolar, which is quite commonly known nowadays, but at the time, I had no idea why she was having a sudden personality change in her early twenties.
She had been in Norway for six years, and I could tell from her letters there was something wrong. And so we brought her back and she spent a couple of days at API, which was very -- she was very against that because of her dad's association. But I'm going on too long about that, but it was a traumatic time for our family because she typical bipolar, she refused any -- any medication, she refused -- and she would get a job and lose a job. And she, all of a sudden, disappeared to California. And then we tried to find out how she was, and it was getting more difficult, and finally she -- she was diagnosed down there and she accepted it for the first time and came back to Anchorage, and then has been here 10 years now and is doing well. She's off medication, but she has a little condo and is working and so we're real thankful for that. And so -- JOHN MAAKESTAD: We've -- we've benefitted from the full spectrum of help.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Needed and offered.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, there's so much help available now. And our youngest daughter married an ophthalmologist who is a medical missionary in Borneo, so the children are far and wide. And we are very thankful they all seem to be doing quite well right now. Section 9:
KAREN BREWSTER: Did you have any experience with Harborview Hospital in Valdez?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yes, we did.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes, we did.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: She was there for a period of time.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: And -- and Muriel was residing there, too.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah, that's what I mean.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And how was that for her?
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: You know, it was amazing. It just went well. When she was at Denali School, she was having some difficulty behavior wise, and the school psychologist said that -- he noted that Muriel kept comparing herself with her older brothers or sisters, and she's saying, when I get my driver's license, she was very frustrated. And so he thought she would do better away from the family for a period of time. And we first sent her to a Lutheran school in Beatrice, Nebraska, and they -- they -- she did well there. She brought up her skills more for group home living; and at that time, Harborview had improved considerably, so we decided we wanted her closer to home.
And so we brought her to Valdez, and she did well there. And people had a lot of criticism, and they -- they closed down, and sent these kids to group homes, and she had quite a hard adjustment to Anchorage because she was used to that little town of Valdez and they knew her and she had a good program. So I -- I was very positive about that experience in Harborview, contrary to much publicity against it. Anyway, that about sums up the family, I think.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. But that's interesting about Harborview because --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- in talking with other people, the issue has come up of a small community that was somewhat accepting of and inviting of people.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Right. I just really think -- Section 10:
BILL SCHNEIDER: But this whole question of separation, I want to ask both of you about this, both from a personal standpoint as well as from a professional standpoint, how did you deal with separation, both professionally with people being separated from their home communities and coming to API? And both from a personal standpoint, your being separated from your children. So maybe the first part would be professional. JOHN MAAKESTAD: And by the way, we haven't mentioned Morningside.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yes.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Maybe that's on your list. But Morningside was being replaced by API, that's really what was -- or went on.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And we forgot to mention we lost our second son in a hang gliding accident in '76, and that was a real trauma for the family. He was 21, and he'd climbed Mt. McKinley that summer, and I thought if he gets off that mountain, he'll be safe, but you know, life has strange turns, but he -- he very much accomplished what he wanted to do in life. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Excuse me, you asked a question, and I left it hanging.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Separation.
KAREN BREWSTER: Separation.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: The separation, from a professional standpoint, how did you counsel and minister to people who were separated from their families? Was that an issue? LOUISE MAAKESTAD: At API.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes. We would try to find relatives that lived in Anchorage or could come along and -- we didn't have residence for families of patients at API, but that is a difficulty, but the Native Medical Center has come a long way by providing residence for family members to come right along with -- LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, the fact that you knew so many of the Native families from Nome and further north --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. Yeah.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: -- you could -- you could make connections and help them see their family here in Anchorage.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Some of -- a number of the people that lived at Shishmaref, for instance, would go to Kotzebue for medical treatment, unless it was very severe, then they'd airlift down here. So that's how I became acquainted with Kotzebue patients and so on. Kotzebue is -- you know, is -- it's positioned to benefit from these oil developments in the future, in the not too distant future. LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, and medical care has improved so much compared to the early '50s when the school teacher usually would be the health representatives in the village, and be on the radio with the doctor in Kotzebue for advice on how to treat this patient or that one patient.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. Yeah.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: You know, it was very -- JOHN MAAKESTAD: When we were at Shishmaref, there were times when the teacher would be away, and the teacher had the radio, but I would cover for him --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Yeah, the doctor.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: -- or the powers that be. Section 11:
KAREN BREWSTER: When you worked at API, did families come to Anchorage to visit their --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- family members in the hospital?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Sometimes, yeah.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: That increased.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Sometimes that could be helpful and sometimes not so helpful. You know.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: But that visitation increased in those 20 years compared to --
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And the travel, people traveled a lot more. JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. And the residence for families is a very good thing because it's very expensive, but -- well, yeah. That problem that you mentioned, separation from the family, sometimes it's better to send them home as soon as you can to -- rather than, you know, keeping them here and far away from family. KAREN BREWSTER: As you said, though, in some cases, the family situation might not be a healthy situation.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yeah. Yeah. That's true. And it's not easy. I was just reading in the paper for yesterday about this family in Teller.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Alcoholism related.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Terrible. I wouldn't want to -- I shouldn't read it to you. I mean, that's --
KAREN BREWSTER: No, that's okay.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: You can --
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, being in Barrow, I imagine you --
KAREN BREWSTER: Yes.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: -- run into situations like that.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh, yes. Well, now, I think your experience is -- KAREN BREWSTER: Well, nothing compared to Shishmaref in the '50s.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: Well, you know, in a way, it was healthy and easier; life was harder, but the people themselves say that. Life was harder but we enjoyed life more.
KAREN BREWSTER: It was a healthier community.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: I think you see that, the Native foods were very much eaten. JOHN MAAKESTAD: And you know one of the spectacular things when you live in a place like Shishmaref at that time was that the North Star made one trip up, and Louise had to make the grocery list for a year. I mean, it sounds spectacular.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: All the basics, yeah. All the basics.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: But it's very true, and workable.
LOUISE MAAKESTAD: And the way that people would work together unloading that thing when it did come. You know, they had their teams and it was so well done. Section 12:
KAREN BREWSTER: I'm wondering about, again, your work at API and working with the patients. What kind of individual counseling might you have provided that was different than what a psychiatrist-type session might be?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Uh-hum. Well, for one thing, you can clear up misunderstandings about religious teachings. The thing that comes to my mind quickly is, you know, the -- Jesus was asked, what must I do to be saved, and the New Testament says, he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. And then some little baby boy dies, and the family will say, well, does the -- is the baby rejected because the family was unable to carry out the Rite of Baptism and -- and the attached teaching responsibilities, Sunday School and, you know, so on, to build upon the ministry of the church. And -- am I. BILL SCHNEIDER: So how did you respond?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Oh. Oh, yes. Well, God is a God of love, and we know that -- and the Scripture itself says he that -- he that lives without the law is judged without the law. There is -- there's some clear teachings. But they -- they aren't easily apprehended by some people. Some people find distortions of religion more attractive than realities, and --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Boy, that's for sure, isn't it?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. Section 13:
KAREN BREWSTER: How do you think patients were cared for at API? Do you think they got good treatment there?
JOHN MAAKESTAD: I think they got treatment that was available.
Louise reminded me of this man that killed three teenagers in Russian Jack Springs Park, you know. And -- LOUISE MAAKESTAD: He had been at API for quite -- quite some time.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: Yes. And they -- they had -- he had moved along in the treatment program to where they even approved him. The initial infraction that brought him to API was that he beat up a Native grocery boy to death. And among the things that -- the reason or in the process of taking him into the API and setting up a program of treatment, he -- he said, I wanted to show the police authority that I'm real tough, and that they -- they ought to put me in the Marines and make me commandant of an elite -- he had a bad distortion, you know. And I, myself, had misgivings about the way they were pushing him along. They actually, you see, had approved his going out and working at Sears Roebuck a couple hours a day, and these were things that you can read in the files. In other words, I'm conscious of not to -- divulging information that is not available. But that shows you some bad mistakes can be made. He was on a work release for two, three hours, and he had gotten himself a pistol, bought someplace, see, loose control, but -- and I had been teaching -- I'm speaking as a part of the team, that -- well, so...
KAREN BREWSTER: Were there residents at API, people who came for treatment, and spent the rest of their lives there, or was it an in and out? JOHN MAAKESTAD: There are a few that, for instance, they have committed very serious murder, in particular. Quite a few. You know, I'm not very mentally agile.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That's fine.
JOHN MAAKESTAD: And it's frustrating. So did I answer your question?
KAREN BREWSTER: I'll ask it again. I want to change the tape, then I'll ask it again.