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OLIVIA KLUPAR’S GRAND ENTRANCE

Olivia Klupar is the last baby born in the Skagway clinic

by Greg Klupar

A month ago


Olivia Klupar certainly knows how to make a dramatic entrance.

Just ask her parents, Karl and Rosemary (owners of Olivia's Bistro at the Historic Skagway Inn and Lynch & Kennedy).

Olivia, founder and CEO of VOYIJ Alaska, was nearly born in the restaurant of Skagway’s classy Golden North Hotel (back when the hotel was still open for business), where her parents were dining with friends one evening. While eating the famous devil’s delight chocolate dessert, Rosemary began feeling contractions. She ignored them.

“We didn’t know it until Rosemary got out of her seat — we thought the contractions would just go away — that we were going to have the baby,” Karl said.

It was time to spring into action. The question was, where would Olivia be born?

The local clinic refused to admit Rosemary because it didn’t have the facilities or a doctor on staff to accommodate a delivery, and the only options were to fly to Juneau, some 90 miles away and only accessible by ferry or small plane or to drive to Whitehorse, 110 miles away across the Canadian border. Juneau would have accepted her, but it required a long, risky trip in stormy weather and the delivery was progressing quickly.

There was no time. So, while Frank Norris, a family friend, started boiling water at home thinking they were going to do a home birth, Karl called the local EMTs (an ingenious idea in retrospect), whose patients by regulation could not be refused at the local clinic despite the clinic’s insurance concerns.

“As manager of the Klondike Hotel (now Westmark Hotel), I had access to the dispatch radio and I was listening to the police scanner, and the dispatcher said, ‘you don’t want to miss this one!’” Karl said. “Seventeen people showed up!”

But there was no doctor among the 17. So Karl contacted Dr. Stanley Jones, in Haines — about 20 miles away, a treacherous distance in the storm — and asked him to fly right away to Skagway to deliver Olivia.

“Dr. Jones didn’t like to fly, which was even more troublesome because of the storm,” Karl said. “Michael O’Daniel, the owner of the old Skagway Air Service, a regional airline, personally flew to Haines to pick him up and they flew to Skagway together.”

Dr. Jones made a dramatic entrance himself. Flying through the storm, as the plane approached Skagway the airport runway had no lights. So they parked trucks at both ends of the runway to allow their headlights to guide the pilot.

“Dr. Jones arrived at the clinic and immediately went into a training class and showed everybody, ‘if you’re going to deliver and baby, here’s what you do,’” Karl said. “One thing that was obvious at that time was there is no bashfulness when you’re having a baby. The Pope could have been there and she wouldn’t have cared.”

It was September 11, 1988. It was the last time a baby was born at the Skagway clinic.

The Pope wasn’t there. But Olivia had made her entrance into the world.