In honor of our 30th Anniversary, here is a series of short historical reminiscences of the Homer Foundation, Alaska’s first community foundation. The series has been produced by the foundation and written by board member Tom Kizzia. The series will run in the local newspaper, the Homer News.
Hazel Heath was a local businesswoman, one of the wartime settlers who arrived in Homer after the local benchland had been settled as farms. The close-in homesteads had all been staked, so Hazel and her husband, Ken, purchased their homestead, at the downtown corner of Pioneer Avenue and what is today Heath Street.
Ken Castner, a local commercial fisherman and business consultant, was thinking about writing the Pratt Museum into his will. The year was 1990. The Homer Society of Natural History, the nonprofit that managed the museum, was an institution firmly rooted in the town’s hard-hammering pioneer beginnings — born in the living room of the gabled, custom-built 1941 house of Sam and Vega Pratt, who donated land for the museum building. Vega Anderson Pratt was the daughter of a family that had been in Homer since the 1920s.
The birth of the Homer Foundation thirty years ago was pushed along in important ways by the wreck of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. The massive tanker spill in March, 1989, became a Homer problem as crude oil flowed out of Prince William Sound and was pushed by currents toward Cook Inlet and Kodiak. For weeks, goopy brown “mousse” smeared the outer Kenai Peninsula coast and hovered off Kennedy Entrance, as Homer scrambled to build booms and send out cleanup boats.