Local author of Jesse Lee Home memoir to speak

Oct 2, 2018

Credit Betty Epps Arnett

  Twice a year the various local historical societies get together for a group meeting, where among other agenda items, they will hear a presentation about the Jesse Lee Home.

Jeanette Pedginski is an organizer for Saturday's event, which she says will feature a talk by Betty Epps Arnett and how she came to Alaska.

"So she was age 22 when she arrived in Alaska from Tenn. where she grew up. And so she came up on a steamship, and when she arrived she became the house mother to 11 little boys. And 22 is pretty young to become a mother and to all over a sudden become mother to 11."

Arnett has a new book detailing her time at the Jesse Lee Home, which was part orphanage and part boarding school.

"And so in her book, which goes by that title, "22 and the Mother to 11," she uses a lot of notes and resources from other women that she's been in touch with that were house mothers at the same time. So she had a lot of dialog that, as I read the book, I really enjoyed it," Pedginski said. "You feel like you were there and feeling what it was like to be part of the staff or one of the children staying at Jesse Lee Home. I highly recommend the book, and she will have it for sale at the Oct. 6 meeting."

Pedginski says Arnett knows how to tell a story.

"So Betty, being from Tennessee has a southern accent. Even after all of these years you can still hear some of that accent, and it's really fun, because she's also had training as a professional story teller. You can find a couple YouTube clips of her telling stories."

The Kenai Peninsula Historical Association fall meeting will be on Saturday at the Don Gilman Kenai River Center in Soldotna, and the public is welcome to attend.