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Take Care of the Old Person You Will Become

The teacher pulled aside the Tlingit boy, whose rapt attention he secured to deliver an indelible message.

He said to young Walter Soboleff: "Take care of the old person you are going to become."

"I never forgot that," Soboleff says. "At first I thought it was a very strange talk. But it just remained with me.

"I remember that through grade school, through high school, through college, through graduate school.

"I can't forget that day. He just kept saying it to me: 'Take care of the old person you are going to become.' "

The 10-year-old became an Alaska icon who in November turned 102 years old, extending an unfinished legacy founded on peace – a voice of quiet power that would fight racism while trying to stem the methodical erosion of Native culture.

Today, Walter Soboleff Sr. sits a regal man, whose expressions of rumination produce thoughtful comments, reflecting a sharp memory, an engaged mind and a refusal to hold a grudge.

- Steve Quinn, from "Words of Grace for a Century," in First Alaskans, February/March 2011, p. 1.