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1925 Sylvia 2021

Sylvia Ciernick Broady

February 1, 1925 — April 15, 2021

Dr. Sylvia Ciernick Broady

When Sylvia Ciernick was 14 years old, she penned an essay about what she hoped would be the path of her life. Her vision as a young teen in Dearborn, Michigan, served her well for the next nine decades. “When I grow up, I want to live in Alaska,” she wrote – and went on to become a 50-year resident of the 49th state, as well as realizing her dreams of working in journalism, and traveling for new experiences.

Born February 1, 1925, in Dearborn to Frank and Helen Stella Ciernick, Dr. Sylvia Broady passed away April 15, 2021, in Poulsbo, WA.

She graduated from Michigan State College with a B.A in journalism in 1948, and began her career as information editor for the Dearborn public schools. She resigned after 13 years to teach and study for her Masters at Wayne State University; she continued on to earn her Doctorate in communications from Michigan State University in 1962.

It was time to pursue her teenage goal: she applied for a job in Alaska.

On January 14, 1963, the newly minted PhD arrived in Fairbanks to become a professor and director of public information at the University of Alaska.

The following year, on a work trip to the U.S. Naval Arctic Research Laboratory near Barrow, Alaska, she met Tom Broady, an electrical engineer at the facility. So began a courtship that took place over 500 miles of Arctic geography for two years, then over 5000 miles of Pacific Ocean when Tom was assigned to a three-month job in Vietnam.

Sylvia left the university, and the couple married in Anchorage December 16, 1966, in a house they purchased for the future. After the wedding, they moved into a Quonset hut at the Barrow research lab at the northernmost tip of the U.S., taking Sylvia’s mother with them for the Christmas holidays. It was the Broadys’ home for three years.

Tom was offered positions overseas; Sylvia enthusiastically accompanied him. They stayed three years in Legos, Nigeria, two in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, and traveled to Beirut, Copenhagen, Paris, and London, before coming back to finally live in their Anchorage house.

Sylvia worked for the Anchorage School District and taught part-time at the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) before becoming a full professor and chair of the school’s Journalism and Public Communications department in 1980. Tom died in 1992 after a long illness. Sylvia retired in 1995 to “become a lady of leisure” and traveled around the world with her friend Olga Wholey, but was summoned back to the university in 1999 as interim vice chancellor for 13 months.

In 2003, Sylvia married John Strohmeyer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor who came to UAA as the Atwood Chair of Journalism. John’s passion for fishing introduced Sylvia to this new activity on the Kenai and Russian rivers, Anchorage’s lakes, and the ocean near Crystal Springs, Florida, where they wintered. The couple always considered Alaska home, though they enjoyed traveling overseas and visiting family in California, New Hampshire and Ohio. John died in 2010.

Sylvia’s decades of contributions to Alaskan journalism and public relations through teaching and professional organizations brought her much community recognition, including Communicator of Achievement from Alaska Press Women, Professional of the Year from the Advertising Federation of Alaska, and lifetime of dedication honors from the Alaska Press Club, Public Relations Society of America, and National Federation of Press Women.

In August of 2013, she began to explore ways to continue living life to the fullest: she got a knee replacement, and spent two snow-and-ice free winters on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in a senior residence – Madison House – to be near former Anchorage-ites Hilary Hilscher and Neil Johannsen. The simpler lifestyle appealed to her, so she sold her Alaska properties and moved permanently to the island in 2015.

To her delight, many Alaskans and new friends, as well as nieces and nephews from California, found their way to her Madison House apartment. Her long-time Anchorage friends Elizabeth Steriou and Cynthia Miller (Olga Wholey’s daughter) were regular visitors. Always, Sylvia was gracious, warm, and welcoming.

Her desire for more adventures continued: in 2017 she traveled through Europe on a Viking River cruise, and in 2018 her three nieces and one grand-niece took her touring to Victoria. In 2019, her failing health resulted in a move to Brookdale assisted living in Poulsbo, Washington, where Sylvia was surrounded by a devoted team of caregivers.

Sylvia was preceded in death by brother Dan Ciernick and his wife Rosemary, and nephew Frank. She is survived by nephews John, Bernard, Vincent (Valerie Armand); nieces Mary Ann Phillips (Andy); Helen Ciernick, and Rose Barnsley; their children; her step-children Sarah Strohmeyer Merriman, and John Strohmeyer, and their children; and her extended family of friends in Alaska, Washington, and around the country.

Donations may be made in Sylvia’s name to the University of Alaska Foundation and Bainbridge’s Helpline House; remembrances may be posted on her obituary page at Website quick links for donations can be found under Memorial Contributions.

Arrangements are entrusted to the Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, Wa.

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