March 4, 1924 – May 5, 2018
LEONARD NELSON NUGEN
On May 5, 2018, Leonard Nelson Nugen passed away at the Palmer Pioneers' Home in Palmer, Alaska. He was 94 and 55 years sober. Leonard was born on March 4, 1924 in Beards Creek, WV. After high school he worked at a saw mill until he enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served on board the USS Philip destroyer. In 1946 he was honorably discharged. While in service, he earned Philippine Liberation Medal with one Star, Pacific Theater Medal with 4 Stars, The American Theater Medal, The Victorious Medal and the Combat Medal. In 1950 he married Frances Marie Lilly and had 4 children, 3 daughters; Sandra Lee, Doris Jean, and Evelyn Sue and one son, Eddie Nelson. Sadly, his alcohol use ended this marriage. On his recovery steps from alcoholism, he met Henrietta Hart and in 1964, he married her and adopted her two children, Karen and James. They resided in Salem, Ore., until moving to Alaska in 1966.
Leonard and his wife managed the Studio Club in Anchorage. The Studio Club was the first Alaska half-way house for recovering alcoholics. As recovering alcoholics, they recognize the need for safe, sober housing. Even before moving to Alaska, their home was always open to people needing a safe and sober family home to recover from alcohol. Working with recovering alcoholics was natural for Leonard. When the Studio Club lost the building, Leonard and Henrietta approached the Studio Club Board of Directors concerning the need for a long-term residential treatment program. The Board agreed, property was purchased in the Mat-Su Valley, buildings were renovated, and Nugen's Ranch opened in 1981, on the Palmer Wasilla Highway.
Leonard was a visionary in the field of substance abuse residential treatment and served as the Procurement/Treatment Director of Nugen’s Ranch from 1981 to 1994. After nearly three decades in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, he went out as a man who helped create the first long-term facility in Alaska to receive national accreditation. He received many honors for his work to include a Legislative commendation, an Ambassador of Goodwill honor from the governor's office, the John Shaw Humanitarian Award and others.
As a World War II vet, Leonard was chosen to participate on the Honor Flight in October 2013. His son Eddie accompanied Leonard on the flight. Leonard was proud of his service; the 2013 flight was a highlight, he was proud to wear the jacket that indicated he was an honor flight participant. Leonard is preceded in death by his parents, brother Harry, sister Martha Lilly, daughters Doris and Sue, and his wife Henrietta. Leonard is survived by his sister Faye Schoolcraft, children Sandy Rutherford, Eddie and Nanci Nugen, James and Dawn Nugen, Karen Nugen-Logan and Fordyce Logan, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held at the Nugen Cemetery on June 30, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family request that memorial donations be made to The Nugen Cemetery Trust. Leonard served on the advisory board for many years working to improve and organize a place for all descendants to have a cemetery plot free of charge. A farm, passed down from generation to generation, now lives on as a final resting place and a place of family reunions and other activities.
Donations are tax deductible. Checks should be made out to Nugen Cemetery Trust and brought to memorial service or mailed to Abby Dunn (trust treasurer), 1154 High Meadow Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32311.