When Jack and Judy Ozment arrived in Sitka in 1991, as Volunteers in Mission with the Sheldon Jackson College, it hadn't crossed their minds that their year of service would turn into an indefinite stay. With a son living in Fairbanks, whom they visited on occasion, Jack and Judy had been to Alaska, and Sitka, before, and were excited to spend a year, maybe two, serving here. To the great benefit of all Sitkans, the Ozments decided to stay. After several years of volunteering at Sheldon Jackson, they were ready to make this place home. What was intended to be a year of service thus turned into over two decades of dedicated commitment, leadership, and service to the community of Sitka.
Jack and Judy came to Sitka from Virginia, where Jack had worked as a project engineer for IBM, and where they had both been active in their local church, community, and conservation organizations, particularly a Rails to Trails group that focused on converting old, abandoned railroad into biking and hiking trails. Their prolific volunteer work continued in Sitka, Jack working with the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Trail Works, Sitka Parks and Recreation Commission, and National Park Service, Judy focusing her work on the Sitka Historical Society. They both remained active members and volunteers with the Presbyterian Church.
When asked why he became so involved with the Sitka Conservation Society, Jack responds that he "saw a need. The Forest Service was being irresponsible, and deceitful, when it came to the public trust. We saw the old-growth disappearing before our eyes—somebody had to take a stand, and SCS was doing that." It was this concern for the land and future generations of Sitkans that prompted Jack, along with other SCS board member Don Muller, to fly to Ketchikan/POW and chain himself to logging equipment, for three nights straight sleeping under an earth mover to protest the clear-cut logging that was scheduled to take place in a road less area of untouched wildlife habitat.
Jack's passion for protecting the land is obvious from his tenure with SCS. He has served on the organization's board for fifteen years and held multiple leadership positions, including serving or over five years as board president. In fact, Jack's tenure on the board makes him one of the longest serving board members in the organization's history. Jack also served multiple terms on the Sitka Assembly, the first ardent conservationist and SCS board member to be elected to the assembly since Alice Johnstone, one of SCS' founding members. The volunteer work of Jack and Judy shaped and continues to shape the Sitka in which we live today. Both served as members of the Historic Preservation Commission, and together Jack and Judy fought to restore the Sheldon Jackson Campus and prevent the land from being converted into a cruise ship dock. Thanks to the efforts they spearheaded, the campus is now a vibrant center of community life.
The town of and lands surrounding Sitka remain healthy and vibrant to this day thanks in large part to people like the Ozments, who have embodied our community's spirit and embraced the civic value of giving back. It is our hope and mission at SCS to learn from the service and leadership Jack and Judy provided this town, and carry forward the vision of happy and healthy people and lands for which they were such staunch champions.
The following tribute was written by Marian Allen after Jack passed away. It was presented at the SCS Annual Meeting in 2020
Jack came to Sitka with his wife Judy as a Presbyterian SJ volunteer. They fell in love with Sitka and the Tongass and moved here as retirees in 1991. Jack brought to SCS his perspective from a long career in management in the private sector with IBM. He and Judy also contributed a lifestyle committed to giving back to their community through civic involvement. He was a bridge between the activist minded Staff and Board of SCS and more “mainstream” business-oriented Sitka community. Jack became only the second conservationist to serve on the Sitka Assembly (after Alice Johnstone) and was an active member of his church and the Rotary Club among other organizations. He did all this at a time when SCS was transitioning from a strongly defensive organization into a more balanced community environmentalist organization. Both Ozments volunteered in many Sitka organizations and were some of the strong advocates for the restoration of the SJ campus and preventing that land from being converted into a cruise ship dock.
Jack was a quiet man with a low-key style. He listened and then advocated for his position on issues. When Pres. Bush first exempted the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, that advocacy turned to civil disobedience. Jack was fed up with the devastation created by clear cutting. Along with six other Sitkans, including myself, he joined a Green Peace action on Kupreanof Island. We chained ourselves to heavy equipment near the road extension that was to be built. At the time, Jack was about the age I am now. When the Green Peace organizers wanted one person to stand where the actual construction would take place, back from the front line, no one wanted to do it. Jack agreed to take that position in the back for the good of the group and the cause. I really respected him for making that choice. Another strong memory I have of Jack is seeing him speed walk into town from his home out by Sandy Beach.
Jack also gladly contributed his expertise as an administrator to Andrew when Andrew was a new ED and he served as our very diligent Board President for over five years. He also served in other leadership positions on the board as needed. He was always there when we needed someone and threw his energy into whatever task was waiting to be completed. This included volunteering as the SCS representative to the SEACC (Southeast Alaska Conservation Council) Board for a number of years.
The town and lands surrounding Sitka remain healthy and vibrant to this day thanks in large part to people like Jack and Judy Ozment. They embodied the spirit of giving back. In memory of Jack Ozment, we can commit to continuing to carry forward that vision and work.