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.