Aleta VanZinderan could be the poster child for the old adage, “Hire what you can’t teach.” Captain Chuck, whose gift for picking great employees is seemingly endless, brought Aleta to Angling Unlimited in 2005 after she completed her freshman year in college. What she knew about the nuts and bolts of the job hardly mattered – she was a quick study. What remains unforgettable throughout her 10 years with AU are the warm smile, the giving heart, her playful sense of humor, and her caring for each guest as if that person was a member of her family. You can’t teach that.
Sadly for AU and our guests, Aleta announced that after ten seasons of sharing that contagious smile and great attitude with our guests, she has found the love of her life and plans to build a year round life in Hawaii.
Aleta’s AU story began in the winter 2005 during her freshman year in college. She learned about a job opportunity through a family friend named Kerry White – the mother of current hostess Lindsey and Alex, our former processor. Aleta remembers her excitement that February day when Chuck called her to ask if she wanted the job working in Alaska. She recalls a lot of screaming and jubilation. She could not wait to get to Sitka.
She began as a hostess and quickly established her value with a determined work ethic and genuinely outgoing personality. Many of the hostesses she worked with during her early years became lifetime friends. She was the maid of honor at the wedding of co-worker Brielle and Captain Phil. She keeps in regular touch with former hostesses Josie Syverson and Kacie Carlson, Phil’s sister. She treasures the opportunity she had to work with her sister Hope for four years and formed a close relationship with Hope’s in-laws who live in Sitka.
Aleta eagerly took on the responsibility of office manger in 2010. As much as she loved hostessing, moving up to office manager provided the opportunity to interact with all the guest who entered our office. Stopping by to share stories from the past year with Aleta became a tradition for many of our guests upon arrival at our lodge.
“I loved being the smiling face that people recognized when they returned each year,” shared Aleta. “Many people saw it as a welcome home when they got to Sitka – I know that’s how I’ll be remembered.”
During her ten years living and working in Sitka, Aleta formed lasting friendships within AU and with many Sitkans. “Aleta was an ambassador for our business and for the charter industry in general in Sitka. It’s no secret that there’s a little tension between charter and commercial interests, but not with Aleta,” said Captain Tom. “Her warmth and good nature is genuine and proved disarming. Walking into the office after fishing and chatting for five minutes with Aleta was one of the high points of every summer day for me. We’re all going to miss her.”
“I will definitely miss the people the most. Tom, Chuck, their families, the clients – so many return year after year, they felt like family,” said Aleta. “Working for AU helped shape the person I’ve become and created the path I follow.”
Some of her lasting memories include nights hiking Harbor Mountain, camping at remote forestry cabins, fun fishing, and bonfires with the crew at sunset. However, one aspect trumps all the rest, and that’s the humpback whales.
During her first season as a hostess, she remembers going on a boat ride with the crew after work and seeing her first humpback whale. From that moment, her life was forever changed. This instantly ignited a new passion, which pulled her to Hawaii during the winter where she works as a tour guide for the Pacific Whale Foundation.She met her boyfriend Garrett there, too.
“Meeting Garrett last winter changed my life in a way I never expected,” exclaimed Aleta.
They plan to stay in Maui with their dog, Deogee, for the foreseeable future. They both work on boats out of Lahaina harbor, and will continue to until marriage, a family of their own, and proximity to loved ones calls them back to the mainland.
Although Aleta is moving on, she knows she’ll be drawn back to Alaska regularly by her many friends, her sister, and her love for the 49th state. Aleta will visit Sitka from time to time and, if you’re lucky, you may enjoy the welcoming smile, the bright eyes, and the genuine warmth that has greeted AU’s guest for the past 10 years.