Galena brings together couples from all over


Simone and Karl Thistle.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Galena has brought together couples from all over the country and throughout the world, first when the community hosted an Air Force Base, and then when the boarding school brought students and teachers from around the country to our little village. Here are some of their stories.

Karl and Simone Thistle

Galena is where Karl and Simone Thistle met.

He started working a semester after I had started working in Ptarmigan Hall, in the spring of 2013, Simone wrote in an email.

“I did not have a good first impression of Karl; he did not seem to be someone who was my “type” at all,” she wrote. “But, after a while, we were able to hang out with other friends a lot, and I got to know him more.

“We remained good friends for about a year, before we started dating. We dated a year and half and then got married in June of 2015,” she wrote.

“I have never been so thankful to be so wrong about someone. He is more my “type” than I could ever have imagined; he is exactly what God knew I needed in a spouse,” Simone wrote.

Story by Kala Hendrickson

David and Molissa Wightman at their wedding in 2015. Photo by Mindona Billings.
David and Molissa Wightman at their wedding in 2015. Photo by Mindona Billings.

David and Molissa Wightman

Galena is the place that brought David Wightman and Molissa Wightman together.

Being in Galena influenced their relationship by them happily being teachers at the schools’ and the lovely outdoor activities in Galena. They enjoy going to community events together and spending the summer exploring different places. Both of them emailed answers to questions about their relationship.

“Mr. Wightman and I are good compliments to each other. Individually we have our own talents and passions and combined makes us a dynamic couple. I like that we contribute to our community and try to make our home, classrooms, and village a better place,” said Mrs. Wightman.

Mr. Wightman feels the same way. “The best part about our relationship is that we truly enjoy spending time together and find activities we both enjoy. I feel we also enjoy our jobs and love the community that we live in. We are both happy living and working in Galena together.”

The best memories for Mrs. Wightman are ones that bring out Mr. Wightman’s true character.

“I loved seeing David pull Koby to and from school in a wooden dog sled. David made the sled himself and would take Koby to school in it. I’d see this big tall guy pulling a sled with his son inside all bundled up and smiling. I also love all the times we went hunting together as a family. Mr. Wightman taught Koby and I how to shoot accurately so that we could be gunners on the hunts. He is a true family man and includes us in his adventures,” she said.

Mr. Wightman’s best memories that he and his wife spent together was a trip they took together early on in their relationship.

“Mrs. Wightman was finally able to convince me to travel to a foreign country for the first time. We traveled to Costa Rica together and did all kinds of fun stuff. We rented a car with no real set plans or places to stay and just traveled around. I still have many great memories from that trip.”

Something that Mrs. Wightman would like to do that they have never done together is to go on a nice vacation to an island in the Bahamas with Mr. Wightman. She thinks it would be fun to go deep sea fishing with him. They both love the ocean so spending time on the beach is something that they will enjoy.

As for Mr. Wightman, he would like to travel the Alcan Highway together some summer and take out time and camp along the way. He has driven the highway several times but have never taken time to travel it with Mrs. Wightman.

A piece of advice that Mrs. Wightman gave to younger couples is to find some time to enjoy the outdoors, do your own activities with friends, and don’t get jealous about the time away from each other.

It’s okay to do your own thing, you don’t have to be attached at the hip all the time. Not all of your time and energy needs to be spent with one person, she said.

Mr. Wightman’s advice for younger couples is to “find someone with common hobbies and interests. Spend time together doing things you enjoy as a couple. Try to find time in your busy everyday schedule to do something together.”

Story by Elena Jacobs

Angie and Josh Pittsenbarger on their wedding day.
Angie and Josh Pittsenbarger on their wedding day.

Josh and Angie Pittsenbarger

Josh and Angie Pittsenbarger first met in high school back in 1990.

Angie said she remembers thinking that he looked like Matt Damon, and said that she had a crush on him. Josh recalls thinking she was a nice person when they first met.

Josh – sometimes known as Mr. P to his students – said that they met through an Internet website for their high school alumni; Angie – sometimes called Mrs. P by students – said that he found her on Facebook back in 2013.

Angie said that from then on, they started Skyping and talking over the phone. Four months later, they moved to Galena for Mr. Pittsenbarger’s teaching job.

The following April – 4-4-14 to be exact – they were married on the frozen Yukon River.

“The best part of being with Josh is that he makes goals and achieves them. Being in Galena, I think, has made us closer because of the small, loving community that surrounds us. The best memory about Josh is the day I married him. Before God and the community of Galena!” said Angie.

When asked for advice on relationships, the advice that this married couple suggested is to have a good relationship with God, communicate, be honest with each other, don’t keep things bottled up, talk it out, and to have more patience and understanding.

Story by Veronica Beans

Joe Apfelbeck and Elena Jacobs

Joe Apfelbeck and Elena Jacobs were brought together in Galena, Alaska. They have been together for a little more than two years now.

Elena said that they first met each other in August 2014 during their first period class with Mr. Pittsenbarger. She was a freshman and he was a junior. “I thought he was a weirdo,” Elena said. Elena said that they didn’t really start talking until October.

Now Elena is a junior in high school and Joseph is a freshman in college. “Long distance is really hard, but we try our best to communicate every day,” she said.

To the same question, Joe answered, “Our relationship is solid…. It’s really good.”

Joe said that the best part about being with Elena is that “she’s caring and she is always there for me.”

The best part for Elena? “ We always make each other laugh, and we’re willing to try what the other person likes.”

“Being in Galena has influenced our relationship by being in a small town which helps spending more time in activities like dances and wrestling. Galena brought us together more,” said Elena.

One of Elena’s favorite memories of a time with Joe was when Joe came back from wrestling at ACS and he said he had hit his head. The ref asked him a few questions, one of them being what is your girlfriend’s name, and Joe said, “She’s not my girlfriend yet.”

One thing that the couple would like to do that they have not done yet is go on vacation out of state together.

A piece of relationship advice from Elena is “communicate and swallow your pride. Always be patient, just be happy and don’t be jealous.”

Joseph gave one perfect piece of advice. “Be honest.”

Story by Amanda Kopp

Chris Semaken and Mary Coolidge

Mary Coolidge and Chris Semaken. Photo by Brenden Fuson.
Mary Coolidge and Chris Semaken. Photo by Brenden Fuson.

Chris Semaken and Mary Coolidge first meet in their freshman year. They started dating last year. “Basically I made the first move,” said Chris, “We started dating last January 26.”

“The best part is that we communicate with each other, see how were doing with each other, how was their day,” said Chris.

Mary and Chris both like being able to communicate easily with each other.

“I feel really comfortable with him and I could be myself, I could say anything that’s on my mind,” said Mary.

How has schooling in Galena influenced their relationship? “We get to be together, together physically, but over the summer we were together spiritually. It was kind of tough, but then, she was being encouraging saying distance makes relationships stronger,” said Chris.

Chris’s best memory of Mary is when they first slow danced together.

One thing Chris said he wanted to do that he has not done was to “meet her Dad, like actually get to know her dad.”

There’s already some good history.

“The best memory is when we went to the [State] Fair in Palmer,” said Mary.

I asked what one piece of advice that you would share with others. “Find somebody that you are comfortable being with, really care about and someone you can easily work things out with,” said Mary.

Story by Brenden Fuson