Jean Kaufman, "Buttons the Clown", passes away at 100

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 8:46 PM AKST
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Jean Kaufman, known by generations of Alaska children as "Buttons the Clown" with the Lady Shriners, passed away Monday morning at the age of 100.

Kaufman, a bookkeeper by trade, volunteered at dozens of nonprofits through the years. "Salvation Army for 26 years, Providence Hospital [for] 26 years, Volunteers of America for 30 years and 27-thousand hours," Kaufman said during an interview with Channel 2 News two years ago. "I love volunteering."

She also made history by becoming the first 'Lady Trapper,' in the 1997 Fur Rondy.

"She has affected more people in Anchorage than you can even imagine, between the schools and Providence," said Rich Owens, local businessman and former Fur Rondy 'Lord Trapper' during an interview at Kaufman's 98th birthday party two years ago. "So she's been an important part of this community for a long, long time."

Jean Kaufman came to Alaska in 1953 on board the steamer "Denali" after a friend in Colorado suggested she check out Anchorage. She only intended to stay for one year.

"So I got to talking to someone who said, 'I just came from Anchorage, Alaska, and you know that's a pretty nice town. It's small, but it's got mountains, and I'll probably go back there someday.' So I thought, 'Why don't I go there?' So that's what I did" Kaufman said two years ago.

During her 100th birthday party in March of this year, friends praised Kaufman for her years of dedicated volunteer work.

"Well, Jean is one of the most dependable, fun-loving, people I've ever met in my entire life. She's been a dear friend to me for 25 years plus, and I've always said when I grow up, I wanna be just like her," said Clara King, a long-time friend.

Jean Kaufman said during her 100th birthday party "My motto is, and I don't know how many people have told me, 'Jean, you're my role model!' Because I say, 'keep busy!'... I've had a wonderful life."

Memorial services for Jean Kaufman are still being planned.

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