Justine Emerson ’74

Justine Beth Emerson was born January 18, 1953 in Newark, New Jersey to Harold and Norma (Crawford) Emerson. Her family moved to Erie, Pennsylvania when she was 3 years old. She graduated from McDowell High School in 1970 and was renowned in high school as an athlete and a scholar. She played tennis, was on the gymnastics team, was a Trojanette drill team member, as well as skiing, riding horses, and playing cello.

She attended college at Hope College in Holland, Michigan where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. During college she lived in the German House to practice her German language skills, and spent a year studying abroad at Durham University in England. She completed her Masters of Science to become a Family Nurse Practitioner through Pace University in 1979.

The Army College Junior Program caught her attention and she joined the Army before her senior year of college. She went on to be trained as a signal officer, swam on the Army Synchronized Swim Team, and after 2 years of active duty she transitioned to the Army National Guard. In the National Guard she rose to the rank of colonel, was the Alaska State Surgeon, and proudly participated in good will missions in Mongolia, Panama, Japan, Hawaii, and rural Alaska.

Justine initially came to Alaska in 1978. Her first job in Juneau was with the Youth Conservation Corps as a counselor for the summer program hosted at the Methodist camp. She fell in love with The Last Frontier and made it her home base for the rest of her life. She often quoted Psalm 16:6 “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” when describing Juneau. She worked as a back country ranger on the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway and as a nurse practitioner with Juneau Public Health. Her adventurous spirit then took her to Sand Point on the Aleutian chain where she worked as the sole medical provider for a summer. While there, she rediscovered the faith of her youth. Following that stint, she moved to Nepal in December 1983 as a volunteer to set up a clinic for the missionaries of the United Mission to Nepal, in Kathmandu.

In March 1984 she met her husband, Adrian Slater, on a trek to Everest Base Camp. They married in Kathmandu in September 1984. Their first home together was a thatched roof hut in the rural foothills of Nepal, near Andhi Khola.

They moved to Cambridge, England in 1985 where they enrolled in Romsey House Theological Training College and had their daughter Mackenzie. In 1986, the family moved to Juneau. They were caretakers at the Methodist camp when they had their daughter Brynna. Justine began working for Valley Medical Care as their first nurse practitioner and third provider before returning to Nepal for a second term. Justine and Adrian were in Nepal from 1990 to 1993, with their two daughters, working at the Jhimruk
Khola hydroelectric project in western Nepal. They adopted their son Brook before returning to Juneau.

Justine’s life in Juneau remained full: working as a provider at Valley Medical Care, homeschooling her children, participating in many community organizations, and expanding and improving many of them. She coordinated the annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection for Southeast Alaska and went to Anadyr, Russia for their distribution one year. After her diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, in 2006, she volunteered with Cancer Connection. She played cello in the Juneau Symphony and volunteered with Travel Juneau. She was a hospital chaplain at Bartlett Hospital and a deacon and an active member at Chapel by the Lake church. Justine was one of the first recipients of the AWARE – Women of Distinction award. She coordinated and prepared dinner once a month at the Glory Hall. She worked, periodically, in Bethel, Alaska at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation clinic. She volunteered with DART teams through Samaritans’ Purse and used her medical skills at Annoor Hospital in Jordan, and a field hospital in Mosul, Iraq. She was a crusader for the importance of vitamin D supplementation!

Her favorite activities were ones where she was moving outdoors, hiking, canoeing in the Yukon, gathering friends and family together, playing music and contra dancing, and being hospitable to any and all, in accordance with Hebrews 13:2, “Don’t neglect to open up your home to guests because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.”

Justine died, peacefully, at home in Juneau on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. She is preceded in death by her mother and father. She is survived by her husband Adrian, her children Mackenzie, Brynna, and Brook, her grandchildren Elowyn and Ivor, and her siblings Harper and Keith.

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