We invited State Sen. Shelley Hughes to be our guest in reflecting on the contributions of Mollie Boyer to Alaska and especially the Mat-Su. Hughes represents a Senate district that stretches from Palmer to Chugiak. Mollie was a wonderful nonprofit partner to the Foundation through her work at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions in Palmer. In 2011 she received a sabbatical award to have time to reset and reflect.

By Alaska Sen. Shelley Hughes

State Sen. Shelley Hughes of Palmer

When Mollie Boyer was growing up, she was taught to see the value in everything.

 “I grew up around people who really loved the earth,” Mollie said in a mini-documentary that aired in 2016. “They taught me about the beauty around us.”

 She developed a deep appreciation for nature and her natural surroundings, and spent her life working to protect it.

Mollie was the driving force behind the creation of Valley Community for Recycling Solutions in Palmer, a 5-acre site adjacent to the Mat-Su Borough Central Landfill. I hesitate to use the word contagious in a positive way in this year of COVID, but it’s an appropriate word to describe Mollie Boyer’s passion around recycling. I first met Mollie shortly after former Senator Lyda Green had helped secure $800,000 from the legislature to help develop the 5-acre site into what it is today, and I caught the “bug.” She re-evoked what my mother, a Depression-era baby, had instilled in me growing up: not to waste, but to re-use, to restore, to re-invent.

Mollie Boyer

Mollie, a gentle woman, an Alaska pioneer in her field of choice, died Nov. 8 after a fierce battle with cancer. With tremendous sadness we say our goodbyes, but as Mollie would want, we will carry on with great joy the art of recycling.

She was 67. Every time I encountered Mollie at the Valley Recycling Center, I was struck by her enthusiasm, relentlessness and plain old belief in the work of keeping our precious earth clean and livable.

 Mollie earned her Associate of Art degree from Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, Hawaii. She had careers in art, the culinary industry, maintenance, cinematography and television and video production. But her true passion was always caring for her surroundings, for stewarding the environment she so dearly loved.  

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Mollie Boyer and State Sen. Lyda Green review design plans for the new Valley Recycling Center in May 2008. (Photo courtesy of Valley recycling)

She saw landfills as one the largest manmade problems, but one that she never doubted was solvable. Organics will decompose and become dirt. Ore and minerals can be reused. Change was just a matter of taking ownership and retraining habits. And Mollie was committed to doing just that, working closely with schools, business and residents to educate and provide alternatives to the landfill. Today, thousands of pounds of recyclables are processed at Valley Recycling. That’s thousands of pounds of things we need and use daily that won’t end up buried in a hole in our landfill.

 “I believe that if we see everything here on this earth as a precious resource — animals, minerals, soil, water and humans (our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, folks we see on the streets, in the stores, all humans) – and not as something or someone to be discarded or disregarded, that then positive change/caring happens,” she once said.

 Wonderful words by a remarkable woman.

With Pioneer Peak in the background, Mollie Boyer checks out Valley Recycling Center in progress in May 2010. (Photo courtesy of Valley Recycling)

 We love you, Mollie, and will miss your effervescent presence. Please rest in peace knowing that we will do our best to carry on your legacy.