Translate »

“‘Ruined for Life’ or: The Whole Concoction…Was Pretty Good” –

Laurie Graves (St. Mary’s, AK ’80-81, Portland Staff ‘82-83)

After some 18 happy years of trying to climb the corporate ladder at Tektronix, I was looking at my empty house when my youngest child left for college. Then, at my church I saw a poster about what was then called JVC: Northwest. Shortly thereafter, I was on my way to a remote village in Alaska where I would help cook for a boarding school that served Yup’ik Eskimo and Athabascan Indian children.

We had about 22 volunteers, some of them in their second year, plus the Ursuline sisters staffing the school. When we arrived, many of the volunteers went fishing with the local people to help fill up our freezer with huge salmon and many other fish; as a school serving with that population, we had some special hunting and fishing privileges. Also, the families often shared meat and fish with us. I learned to cook moose stew, seal meat, and “agutaq,” otherwise known as fish ice cream.

To make that ice cream, you first go out on the tundra and pick buckets of blueberries. Then you catch (or thaw) big chunks of white fish, cook and cool them, and squeeze out all of the liquid, saving the fish fiber. Then you whip up a big bowl of whale blubber and seal oil (okay, we cheated and used Crisco and salad oil). You combine this mixture with the fish fiber, making just enough to stick the blueberries together, and freeze the whole concoction. Sounds weird maybe, but it actually was pretty good.

Our nurse at the mission, Mary Curry, had to function almost like an old country doctor, being the only trained health care professional for miles around. She had returned to school to become a registered nurse sometime after her college graduation. The light went on. It wasn’t too late for me to realize a dream. Upon returning to Oregon at the end of the JV year, I worked as a C.N.A. to make sure that my middle-aged body could do the work. Then I enrolled at Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Portland. I signed up for a year on JVC Northwest staff in Portland, living and working at the Mac House, which was in walking distance.

I enjoyed a great career in nursing, starting at age 47 and retiring at age 70. Much of that time, I trained nursing assistants to prepare for their state board exams; some of them went on to become “real nurses.” So Mary Curry started a chain of much-needed nurses. My one claim to glory in this career was writing a manual for care planning and another training manual for nursing assistants, both of which sold well nationwide.

JVC Northwest really did “ruin me for life,” and I’m glad that they did.

Laurie as a JV in Alaska
Laurie on the Alaska tundra
Laurie, 2019





1 thought on ““‘Ruined for Life’ or: The Whole Concoction…Was Pretty Good” –”

  1. What a grand narrative in making meaningful life decisions at every age! Thank you for the inspiration — and all your work for others! The tundra is a temple!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate »

Upcoming Virtual Events

Get to Know JVC Northwest

Tuesday, September 28 | 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT 

Join us to learn all the basics about a year of service in the Pacific Northwest, including where you can serve, what you might do, and how to apply. Our Recruiter, Zayna, will also share her experience as a JV in both Alaska and Montana. Finally, we’ll open it up for an informal Q+A. 

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

Wednesday, October 6 | 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT

How can you position yourself to be a strong candidate for JVC Northwest? We’ll share tips and tricks to help you navigate the application, interview, matching, and placement process. We’ll also leave plenty of time for Q+A.  

Zayna Abusada

JVC Northwest Recruiter

Zayna Abusada (Ashland, MT ’17-18, Anchorage, AK ’18-19) was most recently a JV in south-central Alaska serving with immigrant and refugee English-Language learners as the Academy for Citizenship and Civics Support Specialist with the Alaska Literacy Program (ALP) in Anchorage. Zayna first served with Indigenous students on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations. Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Zayna went on to earn her undergraduate degree in History and Theological Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies at Saint Louis University.

Catch Zayna at an Event Near You!


9/8/2021Saint Mary’s College (IN)VirtualFall Career Fair
9/9/2021University of Notre DameVirtualFall Career Fair
9/13/2021University of DaytonIn PersonFall Career Fair
9/14/2021University of Notre DameIn PersonFall Career Fair
9/14/2021Saint Joseph’s UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair
9/15/2021Saint Louis UniversityVirtualAll Majors Career Expo
9/16/2021University of DaytonVirtualFall Career Fair
9/17/2021Creighton UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair
9/17/2021Georgetown UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair
9/20/2021University of Wisconsin-MadisonIn PersonPublic Service Fair
9/21/2021Whitman CollegeVirtualCareer & Internship Fair
9/21/2021University of San FranciscoVirtualCareer Premiere: Service Careers
9/22/2021Le Moyne CollegeVirtualFall Job and Internship Fair
9/22/2021Marquette UniversityIn PersonFall Career & Internship Fair
9/23/2021University of IowaIn PersonHelping, Health, & Public Service Industry Career Fair
9/23/2021Boston CollegeVirtualFall Career & Internship Fair
9/23/2021Xavier UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair
9/29/2021Santa Clara UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair Bash
9/29/2021Fairfield UniversityVirtualFall Career & Internship Fair
9/29/2021DePaul UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair (Day 1 Only)
9/30/2021Providence CollegeVirtualFall Career Expo
9/30/2021Saint Martin’s UniversityVirtualInternship & Service Fair


10/5/2021Pepperdine UniversityVirtualCareers with Social Impact Fair
10/6/2021Saint Mary’s College (CA)VirtualCareer & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Loyola New Orleans/UNOVirtualJoint Fall Job & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Spring Hill CollegeVirtualBadger Career Expo Day 2
10/13/2021Gonzaga UniversityIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
10/13/2021Ohio UniversityVirtualGovernment, Nonprofit, and Service Fair
10/16/2021Ignatian Family Teach-InVirtualBreakout Session and Exhibiting
10/18/2021University of DaytonVirtualBeyond UD Fair: Post Graduate Volunteer Programs