Bella Hammond
—————— § ——————

Bella Hammond

Dec 21, 1932 -

Feb 29, 2020

Bella Gardiner Hammond, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, fisherman, berry picker, activist and former first lady of Alaska, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family on Feb. 29, 2020. Bella was born on Dec. 21, 1932, in Kanakanak, Alaska, to her Scottish father, Thomas Gardiner, and Yupik mother, Lydia Snyder. She was raised in the Dillingham area with her five siblings. It was there that she met her husband Jay. This meeting was the most significant evidence of his self-described "victim of serendipity." They married in Palmer in 1952, and returned to Bristol Bay, settling in Naknek where they raised their two daughters. Bella came from a commercial fishing family and, in the mid-1950s, Bella started her own commercial fishing setnet operation on the Naknek River. Her daughter and grandchildren still fish those sites each summer. When her husband was elected to the state legislature in 1959, and later as governor in 1974, Bella split her time between Naknek and Juneau. She always returned to Bristol Bay to fish each summer.

As first lady, Bella was Jay's sounding board and confidant, helping him shape Alaskan policies. The Hammonds left Juneau in 1982, and blissfully retired to their homestead on Lake Clark. Always a private person, Bella made an exception when it came to the proposed Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska. She was a staunch opponent of the mine and was always a proponent of clean water and healthy fish habitat. Bella was happiest either on the tundra picking berries, on the shores of the Naknek River picking fish, or in her garden tending to world class vegetables and beautiful pansies. She also loved stoking her wood cookstove faster than her grandson Jay could keep her woodshed filled. She had a soft spot for unwanted dogs and always had a pack of rescues at her feet. She passed her love of needy critters onto her granddaughter Lauren. Bella will be remembered for her polite demeanor, quick wit, good humor, strength, generosity and ruthlessness during a Scrabble game.

Bella was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Jay Hammond; like-a-son nephew, David McRae; her parents, Thomas and Lydia Gardiner; as well as her siblings, Jack, Thomas, and James Gardiner, Grace McRae and Mary Luckhurst. She is survived by her daughters, Heidi and Dana Hammond; grandchildren, Lauren and Jay Stanford; stepdaughter, Wendy Hammond; and Wendy's son, Nick Wam. Bella will be laid to rest at her Lake Clark homestead next to her husband during a private service this spring. If you would like to make a memorial contribution, please donate to your favorite dog rescue organization.

Funeral Home
Legacy Funeral/Kehls Chapel
AK 99508
Printed Obituary
Published in the Anchorage Daily News
on March 15, 2020
Click to view a printable version