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Story Last modified at 9:44 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rhonda S. Gallagher (Joyner)


Rhonda S. Gallagher (Joyner)

Rhonda S. Gallagher (Joyner), 50, died Monday, June 13, at Providence Hospital, following a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.

She was born on April 4, 1961, in Huntington Park, Calif., to Michael and Paula Gallagher. In 1969, the family moved to Anchorage, where Rhonda attended Ptarmigan Elementary and Clark Middle Schools before graduating from Bartlett High School in 1979. In her early years, she became increasingly defined by her zest for life and selfless devotion to others. When she wasn't playing competitive volleyball or socializing with her many friends, she was volunteering as a candy striper at Providence Hospital.

Following her high school graduation, Rhonda returned to California where she earned an RN degree from Chapman Nursing School. She then returned to Anchorage to begin what was to become a long and dedicated career. Rhonda spent more than 25 years working at Providence Hospital, the last 12 of which she spent as a maternity nurse, brightening the lives of the co-workers who loved her and bringing comfort and joy to the countless patients in her care.

In 1987, Rhonda met Mitch Joyner. They married on August 27, 1994, at the Otter Lake Chalet on Elmendorf AFB, where, as a nod to their shared sense of humor, Rhonda surprised guests in the reception line with her water-squirting bouquet.

Mitch and Rhonda built a home in Eagle River, where they raised three children and continually opened their hearts and doors to friends and extended family. She enjoyed parties and summertime barbecues full of water skiing, swimming, boating, volleyball and poker.

"Action and productivity were so much a part of her identity that even in her final stages of cancer she continued to work part-time at the hospital, at times forgoing her own needs in order to care for others," her family said. "In the end, Rhonda died the way she had lived: surrounded by family and friends who deeply love and admire her. Her courage in the face of adversity, her infectious sense of humor, and the loving ways in which she graced and enriched the lives of those around her will continue to inspire us all."

She is survived by her husband, Mitch; her children; Christine, Jackson, and Sarah; mother and stepfather, Paula and Don Braun; father, Michael Gallagher; brother, Michael Jr. and his wife, Bea; sister, Sandra Gallagher; half-sister, Renee, and many brothers and sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, and other relatives.

The family wishes to acknowledge and thank Dr. Steven Liu and the staff at Alaska Oncology and Hematology, as well as healthcare workers and friends who eased her long struggle.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, June 23, 2011.