Passing: Senate powerhouse Sen. Lyda Green

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Former Alaska Senate President Lyda Green died on Dec. 19, 2023 in Soldotna. She had been ill for several months and was being cared for at Central Peninsula Hospital.

She was born to Melvin and Nona (Reed) Handley on Oct. 16, 1938 in Livingston, Texas. Her family moved to Freeport, Texas in 1942, where her father was a chemist with Dow Chemical and her mother taught piano lessons.

Lyda graduated from Brazosport High School in 1956. In her youth, Lyda played basketball, sang in choir, and played football with the neighborhood boys.

Throughout her life she kept friends from childhood, many of whom gathered each year in Freeport for reunions. She attended Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas and graduated in three years with a degree in Business Education.

After college she worked in Houston for an independent oil operator. She met her future husband of 62 years, Curtis Green, when she and her roommate needed substitutes for a bridge party. They invited the handsome young men in the apartment across the hall to join them. Curtis and his roommate readily accepted. Six months later, on April 1, 1961, she married Curtis Glen Green Jr. in Mexico City, Mexico. They called their parents (collect) to let them know they had eloped.

After marrying, Curtis let Lyda know he always wanted to return to Alaska, where his family had relocated to in 1955. Lyda had never seen snow but readily accepted. In 1962, Lyda taught for a year at West (Anchorage) High School, then went to work for Pan American Petroleum. She and Curtis were in their tiny Spenard home during the 1964 earthquake, watching their piano dance across floor.

In 1965, their first child, Bradley, was born in Anchorage. Curtis’ work with Texaco took them to Louisiana, and then with Bechtel Engineering to San Francisco and Lusaka, Zambia.

Lyda gave birth to Kristie Green (now Babcock) in 1967 in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1968 the family returned to Anchorage. During their Anchorage years, Lyda served as Girl Scout and Cub Scout mom, chair of the Miners and Trappers Ball, an active Lion, guest cook on the Theda Comstock Show, hostess of dinner and bridge parties, volunteer at First Baptist Church Anchorage, co-owner of the Anchorage Racquet Club and a founding member of the Alaska Youth Tennis Foundation.

Their family grew as Lyda gave birth to Shelton in 1976.

In 1984, they began their Wasilla years on the shores of Mudd Lake, hosting annual summer picnics, supporting youth hockey, and being active in First Baptist Churches of Wasilla and Willow. Lyda opened The Study in her home, where she tutored hundreds of children and adults. She served on the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education.

In 1994, Lyda was elected to the Alaska State Senate in an upset election against longtime incumbent, Democrat Jalmar M. “Jay” Kerttula, who at the time was the longest-serving member in the history of the Alaska Legislature.

Representing the greater Wasilla-Palmer area, Lyda went on to serve 14 years in the Alaska State Senate, where she sponsored major reform in pensions, welfare, education, agricultural lands, the right to keep and bear arms, and many other major policies.

Her public service and private life were always guided by her strong moral, religious, and political principles. From both sides of the aisle, Lyda was respected for her honesty, decorum, and conviction.

Her last two years in the Alaska State Senate she served as Senate President.

In 2016, after 55 years in Alaska, she and Curtis moved full time to Texas. They hosted their children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and others on numerous occasions in Kerrville and Ingram. They sang and worshipped at Trinity Baptist Church of Kerrville. Curtis and Lyda returned to Alaska in May 2023.

Lyda will be remembered for engaging conversation, devotion to family, love of God, hospitality and welcoming nature, and fondness for sewing and gifting beautiful items. Lyda was preceded in death by her father, mother, and brother Marvin. Lyda is survived by husband Curtis, son Bradley Green (wife Dianne); daughter Kristie Babcock, (husband Tuckerman); son Shelton (wife Heather); grandchildren Kelsie (husband Joshua) Edgren, Cori Leaf, Noah (wife Treava) Leaf, Jiabao Leaf, Meijan Leaf, Caleb Green, Daniel (and Serena), Victoria Green, Everly Green, Sutton Green, and Anderson Green; and sister Vickie Symington. 

Cards may be sent to the family at 36815 Hakala Dr. Soldotna, AK 99669. Services will be planned at a later date. 

18 COMMENTS

  1. Senator Green was always both fair and helpful to me throughout her tenure in the Alaska Senate. Really a great Alaskan. My sympathies to her family.

    I’ll readily admit that I was skeptical of her efforts to change public employee retirement systems to defined contribution, a 401k type of retirement plan, but time has very much showed that she was right. About 20 years has now gone by, and I had thought back then that Alaska economic output would soon catch up with the huge amount of state and local government we had amassed with petroleum revenues – and the legacy costs of that huge number of continually vesting employees – but it’s now clear that Lyda was right and I was wrong. Had Senator Green (along with Senator Stedman) not converted PERS and TRS from DB to DC those systems’ costs would be even far less manageable today! As it is, I think the last DB beneficiary is actuarily expected to leave the payment recipient class in 2070: Imagine how much more bleak the fiscal picture would be had Senator Green not authored and championed this change!

  2. Senator Green was one of the best, not just in Alaska politics, but as a person. I’ll never forget her graciousness to me and my family. Alaska loses by her passing, but never by her example.

  3. I echo the previous comments about Lyda. Both her and Charlie Huggins were always available and listened and acted on our concerns/issues. We didn’t always agree but that is human nature.
    Great lady and I use LADY is the best terms possible!

  4. A wonderful caring person and State Senator, Lyda was one of a kind. It was my pleasure to work with her on legislation for many years. Rest in peace,

  5. Senator Green knew how to get money to the Valley, the Pt McKenzie Prison was a huge boost after a better location near Palmer was rejected.

  6. This smart, dignified, and well-respected public servant had virtually only one true nemesis in her last years as Senate President: the shallow, vapid governor of the time.

  7. Lydia was a mentor of mine when I first started in politics and served in the State Board of Education. One thing I know is she was like a tornado and you did not want to be in the path! She is just one of the wonderful Alaska Women that were pioneers in this state and a model for us all.

  8. I am sure she in peace, and not resting, but having a grand time.

    I only knew her as Lyda. Curtis invited me to their house for a picnic. Country bumpkin, me, showed up to have a hotdog and play horseshoes. I don’t remember any horseshoes, but I got to meet some neat people, including Suzanne Downing

  9. When I was being abused by an Alaskan State Agency, I sent letters to all 20 Senators and 40 State Reps. Only Lyda Green and Ramona Barnes cared enough to challenge Tony Knowles to explain why that agency was abusing me. As a result, the agency stopped the abuse and issued an apology! I will always love Lyda for caring more than my own Reps cared. God Bless and receive you Lyda.

  10. She was also a crackerjack piano player. When in town, she played piano at First Baptist Willow and jumped in with no rehearsal to provide effortless accompaniment for the congregation. The last time I played with her was in 2009. She was also instrumental in having the Goose Creek Correctional Facility located here. A very active and productive member of the legislature. Lyda, rest well in the arms of our Lord.

  11. I have known the Green family since the later 1980s as we lived and served together at First Baptist in Wasilla. She was one of my staunchest supporters in the youth ministry and her kids were always very active. I know she will be missed by many in Alaska who have been influenced by her life and service. My condolences to the family.

  12. Thank you Lyda, and thank you Suzanne and Commenters. I never truly appreciated Lyda, as much as I do now
    It’s not good-bye Lyda, we will see you soon. You can show us around Heaven.

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