Leatha Vada Aitken


Leatha Vada Aitken - “Vada” went home to her Lord on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 in Juneau, Alaska, with her family at her side.  

Vada was born Nov. 12, 1931, to James Virgil and Maude Briscoe in Healdton, Okla., and grew up in nearby Fox. The Oklahoma farm life of her childhood was not easy, but Vada had many happy times with her family, especially cousins Judy and JoAnn. After graduating from Fox High School, she moved to OK City to work, then married her first husband George Vaughan. They moved to California and then north to Alaska on a grand adventure. They had two daughters, Vicki, born in California, and Sandi, born in Juneau, Alaska. After they divorced, Vada met and married Alan Aitken who grew their family with three stepdaughters, Sherry, Sandra, and Melody. 

While her first adult job was working for a telephone company in Oklahoma City, life really took off when she left the state. After arriving in Alaska, she worked for banks in Haines and Wrangell along with raising her family. Eventually she found her work calling at the US Forest Service and ended a 30-year career in Juneau on June 1, 1990. Once retired Vada’s life was filled with gardening, reading, her indoor orchids, several trips to see Oklahoma and New York family, talking to her daughters every day and spending time over the years with her sweet dogs Pepper, Molly, Hannah, and Maggie; all cockapoos, which she thought were the best dogs in the world. 

She is survived by her loving husband of 45 years, Alan “Al” Aitken. They were married at First Baptist Church of Juneau on Nov. 19, 1977. Vada was a kind, smart-as-a-whip person with a southern woman’s wit and subtle independence. She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that never met a cake she couldn’t bake to perfection or a roast that didn’t melt in your mouth. Her specialty Christmas fudge and nuts & bolts were worth fighting family over. Vada’s practical hard-work ethic showed in everything she did both at home and professionally. 

Vada is also lovingly remembered by her daughters Vicki Vaughan and Sandi (Robert) Shaw of Juneau, Alaska, stepdaughters Sherry (Greg Knight) Aitken of Sitka, Sandra (Chris LaValle) Empson of Juneau and Melody Anhalt of Littleton, Colo.; seven grandchildren, Kyle Shaw of San Francisco, Calif., Amanda (Guillermo Palma) Empson of Juneau, Alexandra (Michael Krahling) Aitken of Prince Fredrick, Md., Adam (Virginia Veltri) Empson of Philadelphia, Pa., Julia Anhalt of Greenwood, S.C., Lindsey Anhalt of Littleton, Colo., and Gabriel Knight of Oak Creek, Colo.; two great-grandchildren Sage and Makai of Juneau, Alaska; Oklahoma nieces and nephew, Brenda, Sheila and Rick; and brother and sister-in-law Bill (Audrey) Aitken of Norwich.  

She was predeceased by her parents, brother, Robert “Golden” Briscoe, and nephew Brett.

Other special people in Vada’s life were Sarah McDaniel, Vicki’s BFF from college who became another daughter to Vada after moving from Idaho to Juneau for a few years, and lifetime best friend, Bea Rounsley of Juneau.

Vada requested to be cremated. Part of her ashes will be spread in a favorite Juneau place, along with her sweet dogs’. She also wished to have ashes spread on that last Oklahoma hillcrest that overlooks the old home place, and some buried next to her parents’ graves in Graham, Okla. Ashes will also be interred next to Al’s planned final resting place in Bovina Center, with a visitation headstone to commemorate her life.  

A memorial service to be held in Juneau, Alaska is pending.  

The family would especially like to thank Nurse Morgan, Nurse Emily, and Dr. Mather of Bartlett Regional Hospital for their kind and knowledgeable care.  

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Vada’s name to Juneau Animal Rescue or SE Alaska Food Bank.