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

Debris from a large natural avalanche that occurred Monday, Dec. 6, can be seen along the Seward Highway. (Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)
Winter weather brings hazardous conditions to peninsula

On Tuesday, the Chugach Avalanche Center announced “very dangerous avalanche conditions.”

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Hospital puts vaccine mandates on hold

A federal lawsuit challenging the ruling has temporarily blocked its enforcement.

A joint investigation between the FBI and Canadian law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of a Canadian man for cybercrimes on Nov. 30, 2021. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Canadian man indicted in international cybercrime case

His attacks targeted State of Alaska computers as well as Canadian ones.

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion
The remains of the Triumvirate Theatre in Nikiski are seen on Feb. 22.
Triumvirate awarded $1 million to replace destroyed building

Triumvirate’s former building burned down Feb. 20.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Lawmakers, school board talk Juneau priorities

Lawmakers were invited for an “open discussion” about the upcoming legislative session.

A school closure announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was issued Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
Schools closed for Tuesday in Homer, Anchor Point

Central peninsula schools are still planned to open.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel (left) and Kenai City Council Member Henry Knackstedt speak at a joint work session at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council defeats efforts to extend review of land management plan

The proposal would have divided the plan into four chunks that each of the city’s commissions would review one at a time.

Cheryl Fellman checks her watch before attempting an Ice Mile. An Ice Mile is a type of endurance swim that tasks swimmers with covering a mile in water that is 41 degrees or colder. Fellman swam a mile in just under 35 minutes on Saturday at Auke Recreation Area. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau woman completes a mile in near-freezing water

The 49-year-old mother of two and longtime Juneau resident swam Saturday for more than half an hour.

Most Read