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Resident Worked to Make Alaska the 49th State

Resident Worked to Make Alaska the 49th State

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Lexington, KY – From her apartment at Morning Pointe of Lexington, Kentucky , Irene Russell could share stories about how she began her career as a FBI investigator working for the then head of the department, J. Edgar Hoover, but her work that followed is even more amazing. Russell helped establish Alaska as the 49th state.

Early in her career, she worked at the FBI headquarters in Washington,D.C. for four years during World War II. It was a time when all of the men in the FBI were fighting in the war, so the women did the investigating. Russell was part of the intelligence unit.Several years later, while living in Fairbanks, Alaska and being a stay-at-home mom, she got the call to help out again. “I had two small children, and it was hard for me to leave them,” says Russell. However,she had the kind of experience the government was looking for. Her best friend and neighbor knew she was the perfect fit and told her she had to do it. In fact, the friend took the liberty of lining up a baby sitter and even a taxicab to take her to the interview. Russell was offered the job on the spot.

At age 29, she was heading back to work to help make Alaska the 49th state of the United States. “It wasn’t hard work, but it was difficult to be away from my two small children,” shares Russell. The days were very long. The team assembled under the first governor of Alaska,William Allen Egan, used Hawaii as sort of a model for the state’s constitution. “I absolutely loved being a part of the work. The best thing about the job was being a piece of the process,” smiles Russell.

Not long after starting her new job, Russell received a call from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who asked her how she liked living in Alaska. She responded, “it isn’t anything but a frozen rock.”Apparently, the President found her assessment quite humorous according to her family.

Her life in Fairbanks was like that of a pioneer. “We ate moose and caribou a lot,” laughs Russell. “I made a parka out of fox fur to be warm. You had to be self-sufficient; moose and bear were in the yard all of the time,” explains Russell. She says next to being away from her children, the hardest part was the weather. “I remember walking to see a movie, and the marquee at the bank read, 70 degrees below zero,”shivers Russell. “The only part of exposed skin on anybody was around their eyes.”

Russell lived in Alaska for six years and spent about a year working on the Constitutional Convention for the State of Alaska. During this time,she worked closely with Governor Egan. “It was an interesting process watching everything that went into making it a state,” explains Russell.“I didn’t do anything on the political side but saw everything that happened day-to-day.”

During her progress, Russell was introduced to many famous people including explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Finally, Russell celebrated her efforts on January 3, 1959 when Alaska became the 49th state. “It was a great experience being part of the formation of the state of Alaska,” exclaims Russell. “I am so glad for the time I spent there.”

Located at 233 Ruccio Way, near the Fayette Mall on five acres, the new Morning Pointe of Lexington Senior Living is within the Wellington Development, close to established neighborhoods, medical services and support networks Independent Healthcare Properties, LLC, a Chattanooga, TN.-based senior healthcare services company, develops, owns and manages 24 Morning Pointe® Senior Living and The Lantern/Alzheimer’s/Memory Care Center of Excellence communities in five southeastern states. The senior living and Alzheimer’s memory care communities feature craftsman style buildings with spacious apartments. The landscaped campus offers high quality amenities including fine dining areas, life enrichment programs and professional health and wellness services. Innovative and therapeutic programs such as Simple C Companion services, Cuddle Therapy and the Meaningful Day program have been developed by the Morning Pointe team and incorporated into daily activities to ensure the highest quality of care for residents. IHP was founded in 1996 by Tennessee healthcare entrepreneurs, Greg A. Vital and Franklin Farrow. For more information, please visit

Amy Clarke
Corporate Communications Director
Independent Healthcare Properties, LLC
(423) 208-9684

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