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In memoriam: Jim and Julie Ede helped educate Alaskans

Jim and Julie Ede relax inside and outside their Wasilla, Alaska, home called the “Ede Den.”

FFRF Lifetime Member James Colin Ede died of natural causes at his homestead property, the Ede Den, on Dec. 9, 2020, one day past his 88th birthday. Just six months later, Julia Alice Ede died of natural causes at her daughter Ella’s home on June 15.

Julie was born Aug. 1, 1931, in Frankfurt, Ind., to Carter Wallace and Verna Wallace. Jim was born on Dec. 8, 1932, in Knox, Ind., to Colin Ede and Ethel Ede.

Jim was an only child and attended Purdue University for a year following high school. From 1952-1955, he served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, during the Korean War. He returned to Indiana to complete college on the GI bill and met his wife Julie at Indiana University. They married on Aug. 23, 1958. 

In 1959, Jim and Julie set out for an adventure driving up the Alcan in a VW bus with their 9-year-old son, Stephen, to become educators in the new state of Alaska. They arrived at the Anchorage Park Strip on July 4 to see the Alaska state flag raised for the first time. From there, they settled into their first teaching job in Koyukuk. They taught school in five rural Alaska villages, as well as in Wasilla and Anchorage, for many years. Jim was very involved in promoting rural education and was president of the National Education Association-Alaska. Julie went on to teach many more years at Chugiak Elementary School until she retired in 1993.

In 1961, Jim and Julie bought their 50-acre homestead property, later called “The Ede Den” in Wasilla. Originally a two-room homesteader cabin, Jim added on over the years to build their dream home furnished in Alaskan-inspired art, raised their three children (Stephen, Diana and Ella), ran a bed-and-breakfast and an antique business.

In their younger years, they often travelled internationally to Canada, Europe and Asia.

Jim and Julie were both very active in state-wide and community organizations, including arts, education, historical, and political groups. They enjoyed their collectible cars and were involved with the Antique Auto Mushers and the British Car Club. They were active members of the Alaska Democratic Party, Palmer Elks Club, Alaska Pioneer Fruitgrowers Association, the Alaska Hemlock Society, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PLAG), and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Jim shared a passion for reading, antiques, woodworking, beekeeping, gardening, wine making, Dixieland jazz and vintage cars. He was a master tinkerer and could fix almost anything. 

Julie was on the board of the Wasilla Library until 2010. As a longtime teacher, she was passionate about teaching kids to read and promoting literacy. Julie was instrumental in the successful campaign to build a new public library in Wasilla, which she was thrilled to see opened in 2016. Julie visited the library every week to check out books and it was one of her proudest accomplishments to have been part of the campaign for the new library.

If you were family or friends with Julie, she never forgot a birthday and called or visited often. She was known for her generosity and kindness. She once came home from the grocery store with an entire family who needed a place to stay. She was an amazing hostess and threw the best parties and never showed up empty-handed to someone’s home. The Ede Den annual Halloween party was legendary and continues to be an Ede family tradition.

Over the years, Jim and Julie made many friends all over the state. They never knew a stranger and went by the old Alaska practice of paying it forward and always helping a friend or neighbor in need.