April’s Program: Irene Sherman, Queen of Fairbanks

This month we will have author Tricia Brown speaking about the well known Fairbanks resident Irene Sherman (1911-1995).

We will conduct our meeting, then the program will immediately follow. Seating is limited to 85 people, with additional room to stand.

If you enjoy programs like this, we would love to have you as a member. If you have a program idea related to genealogy or local history, please speak with us at the meeting or send us an email.

Entrance to the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame
entrance to the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame
Irene Sherman outside her home, 1988. Photo by journalist Erik Hill
Irene Sherman outside her home. 1988. Photo by journalist Erik Hill

Author Tricia Brown first met Irene Sherman in July 1978, when she witnessed the famous bag lady
pedaling her three-wheeled bike in the Golden Days Parade. It was Tricia’s first full day as a Fairbanksan,
having just come off a 3,000-mile drive up the Alaska Highway. What she saw and heard of Irene stayed
with her through the years. Tricia wrote about her in 1988 in a myth-busting magazine story that
appeared in the News-Miner and the Anchorage Daily News. Not until 2019 did Irene re-enter Tricia’s
life, this time through an email from a stranger who lived far away in Idaho. Irene was a relative, she
said. And Tricia’s curiosity came alive again.

In building out Irene’s family tree, Tricia discovered that Irene’s grandparents and parents were among
the earliest settlers in Fairbanks. Her great-grandparents came to the U.S. from Quebec, and her French-
speaking grandmother, Mina LaChappelle dit Jenot (called Minnie), operated the Third Avenue Hotel on
Cushman following her marriage to John Patten. Irene’s gold-miner father and Minnie’s daughter,
Agnes, met in that hotel in early 1910 and were married in its parlor. Irene came along a year later, born
at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which one stood alongside the original log church by the same name.

Tricia’s book, The Queen of Fairbanks, is due for release at the end of May, and she will be arranging
book-signings around town after it arrives. Stand by for details on her website
www.triciabrownbooks.com; or check www.IreneShermanProject.com, the website promoting
fundraising to support a statue of Irene in a prominent place in downtown Fairbanks.

Have you been to the Fairbanks Community Museum downtown? See the sign “Irenes Way” in person!

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