Community rallies in wake of recent deaths

The deaths of three women over the course of one week has spurred some residents of the central Kenai Peninsula to reach out to support the families left behind.

Soldotna resident Yvonne Anderson, 45, was found dead in the woods near mile 4 of the Kenai Spur Highway the day after Christmas. The following Tuesday, Kenai resident Ruth Holliday, 31, was killed in a two-car accident on Bridge Access Road. Then, 34-year-old Iva “Mitsy” Berninger, who had been missing from her Kenai apartment since Dec. 11, was found dead near a trail in Kenai on Friday.

Tricey Katzenberger runs the organization Bear Hugs, which fills backpacks with clothing, toothbrushes, books and other items to give to children in need. The group put together 12 backpacks for the three women’s children, the last of which were delivered on Saturday, Katzenberger said.

She said backpacks were given to two of Anderson’s four children, and to her grandchild. They were also given to Holliday’s four children and Berninger’s five children.

Katzenberger said her family has ties to Holliday, and that she didn’t hesitate to help when she heard the news.

“I knew that she had kids, and I knew she had young kids and so it wasn’t even a question,” Katzenberger said.

Upon learning of the deaths of Anderson and Berninger, Katzenberger filled the rest of her backpacks for their children as well. Members of the community pitched in with both donated items and monetary contributions, she said.

“This is not the reason we’d like to be handing out backpacks for,” Katzenberger said. “It was hard.”

A GoFundMe webpage has also been set up by Holliday’s sister, Annette Erickson, to raise funds to support her family. Family members will take over care of Holliday’s four children. The plight of the children is one of the main reasons Erickson created the page.

“I felt like they would need money for the funeral and the kids, because the four kids still so young are still very expensive,” Erickson wrote in an email. “I felt like we raised almost $8,000 in just three days because Ruth was very genuine, kind and sweet to others all the time; when she was little, as she grew up, and as an adult — just a good person.”

As of Sunday afternoon, the page had accumulated more than $7,900 for the family and funeral expenses.

Kenai Police said in a previous interview that Holliday’s vehicle crossed over into oncoming traffic before the crash, but that the cause for that is still being investigated. Alaska State Troopers said previously that the cause of death for Anderson could take several weeks to uncover, pending a toxicology test by the State Medical Examiner.

Sgt. Jay Sjogren of the Kenai Police said on Sunday that he was not able to comment on the Berninger case.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander sits inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander to leave City of Kenai in January

Ostrander has served as the city manager since 2017

Melanie Hardin, right, greets the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees before her interview for the APFC’s executive director’s job Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Juneau, (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Permanent Fund board picks new executive director

Trustees work overtime selecting from three candidates after interviews Monday

A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Libraries host haunted houses, scary storytimes, seasonal crafts

It’s all about Halloween at Kenai and Soldotna libraries

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out elements of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Aging school on the brink

Renovations are cost prohibitive at Soldotna Elementary

Most Read