Alaska women work to save historic riverboat

    FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Two Alaska women have teamed up to launch a nonprofit to renovate the SS Nenana, a National Historic Landmark.

    Retired bookkeeper Patricia De Nardo Schmidt and fellow history buff Jeannie Creamer-Dalton, a retired secretary, are getting the paperwork together for the nonprofit in hopes of building on the history of the sternwheel riverboat that was built in 1933 and has been out of service since 1957, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

    "History is important to me," Schmidt said. "If you don't know your history, you don't know where you came from."

    The women are getting help from Nancy Williams, whose late husband, Jack Williams, led an effort 30 years ago to restore the vessel, which has been called the Queen of the Yukon. The Nenana traveled the Tanana and Yukon rivers regularly in the 1930s, '40s and '50s carrying cargo and people.

    Schmidt and Creamer-Dalton are looking to get a marine engineer to evaluate the condition of the paddlewheeler. A previous report said the decaying boat has extensive leaks and the wood is deteriorating.

    The women want a second opinion.

    In May, Creamer-Dalton worked to get the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation to add the SS Nenana Riverboat to the Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties for 2018, which will help generate grant funding, according to officials at the association.

    "I worked on the riverboat with Jack Williams the whole time they were restoring it," said Janet Matheson, vice president of the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation. "I don't want to see it go."

    Fairbanks North Star Borough owns the boat, which sits at Pioneer Park.

    "We're interested to see what they are able to work out with the community," said Donnie Hayes, manager at Pioneer Park, where the SS Nenana is a main attraction. "And we are thankful that the community is trying to find a way to save the Nenana."

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