“Four Haines High School alumni came forward this week detailing sexual abuse by former Boy Scout leader, school principal and superintendent Karl Ward, who died 21 years ago.
Craig Loomis, Robert Brouillette, Nick Kokotovich and Roger Schnabel allege that Ward fondled them or acted inappropriately toward them while they were visiting at his home.
The men decided to speak out after news circulated of Ward’s alleged sexual abuse of Rick Martin. Martin, who killed himself on March 11, left a video on his phone stating he was fondled and later raped by Ward.
Loomis graduated in 1969 and played basketball for the Haines Glacier Bears. Loomis told the CVN on Monday that Ward invited students to his house and offered them alcohol. During one such encounter, when he was around 16 or 17 years old, Loomis said Ward “inappropriately touched” him. He said there are likely more victims.
“I don’t want to mention any other names, but I’m sure there’s probably more than a couple,” Loomis said.
Loomis said he decided to speak out because too many people knew about Ward’s behavior for too long. “God I feel so sorry,” Loomis said. “I should have said something 30 or 40 years ago. Whoever’s been suffering, we don’t know what their life would have been if we would have said something.”
Brouillette played basketball with Loomis. He said he was staying at a teacher’s home at the time who asked him to go to Ward’s to get keys to the school.
“Karl Ward came out on his porch, drinking, and touched me, too,” Brouilette said. “He reached out and grabbed me by my manhood. I think it’s happened to more than just two of us. I think there was more than Craig (Loomis) and I. It’s sad.”
Brouillette said he told the teacher who he was living with what Ward had done to him. The teacher did nothing.
In 1977 when Nick Kokotovich was 19 years old, he said he was invited to Ward’s home to drink alcohol. “I was in the kitchen mixing a drink and he came up behind me and grabbed my buttocks and squeezed it a couple times,” Kokotovich said. “I mean he grabbed hold. I jumped back and told him to knock it off and don’t do that. He just smiled at me and backed away.”
Schnabel also played basketball. He graduated in 1973. Similar to the others, Ward invited Schnabel to his home. Schnabel said Ward had been drinking and was slurring his words. They were in his basement.
“Mr. Ward, he approached me inappropriately. I went into sort of a shock mode, immediately left his home and told my father. I was probably about 15 or 16 years old. I never visited him again.”
Schnabel said Ward never approached him again, and thinks his father dealt with Ward “behind the scenes.”
The men who spoke out believe Ward’s sexual abuse was an open secret in Haines that should be acknowledged. Two school staff members- friends of current school principal Rene Martin, widow of Rick Martin-took down a sign last week that named the school gym after Ward. The sign was hung in 1994.
Loomis, who graduated years before the sign was hung, said he was shocked that the gym was named after Ward. “I thought to myself how could this possibly be? People knew this. How could they possibly name the gym after him? Nobody talked about it back then. The victims kept quiet, because how could a kid go against the word of Karl Ward?”
Ward, originally from Philadelphia, joined the Navy in 1942, according to records obtained from the Haines Sheldon Museum. He was discharged in 1945. Two years later he joined the National Missions of the Presbyterian Church and was sent to Haines. He worked as an assistant farmer and maintenance man at the Haines House, a place where Native children lived who were orphaned, wards of the state or who lacked schools in their remote communities.
He later returned to Pennsylvania and obtained a masters in education. In 1954, he accepted a teaching position at Haines High School. He became the principal three years later. In 1960, the Presbyterian Church closed Haines House. Ward fostered four boys who left the orphanage.
In 1967 he was hired as the Haines School superintendent. Ward was also active in the Boy Scouts. He remained single until he was 46 years old. Ward retired as superintendent in 1976. Ward was active in Glacier Bears basketball. He served as a scorekeeper and travelled with the team. Ward also had the boys rub his head for good luck before taking the court. He died in 1997.
According to CVN records Ward received awards from students, local teachers, businesses and the University of Alaska. He was twice given an award for contributions to student activities. The University of Alaska Southeast gave him a meritorious service award for his work in education and his “strong, positive influence on youth,” according to a December 1989 “Southeast Log” article obtained from the Sheldon Museum.
The CVN reached out to Ward’s former coworkers and administrators to see if they were aware of rumors or alleged abuse.
“I have no comment on that issue now or ever,” former principal Alan Heinrich said.
Gary Matthews was a music teacher from 1968 to 1979 and the principal from 1979 to 1993. He said he thought it was somewhat unusual that Ward had students over to his house, but chalked it up to Ward not having a family.
“He was close to a number of kids,” Matthews said. “There were students he had as his favorites. They would go to his house. He liked the basketball team really well. I know he was really close to those kids.”
Other Haines residents said they believed for years that Ward abused kids.
“It’s been hard to walk by that sign at the gym. When I was in high school, Karl Ward attempted to molest someone close to me who came straight from Karl’s basement to tell me about it,” said Pioneer Bar owner Christy Tengs Fowler. “Others have told me of their molestation. Parents were told, but nobody did anything.”
Brouillette’s sister, Harriet Brouillette, said she remembered eavesdropping on adult conversations about Ward’s alleged abuse. She said it was “one of those things that every kid who went to Haines School knew.”
“I just remember growing up knowing what everybody seemed to know, but didn’t want to talk about, that he liked young boys,” Harriet Brouillette said. “It was one of those ‘hush-hush’ things. Everybody seemed to know about it, but no one wanted to call him out.”
Others say they are shocked. One Haines graduate said he named his child after Ward.
Norm Smith, who attended school from the seventh grade until he graduated, said he had never heard any such allegations against Ward.
“To hear that about Karl Ward, I’m having a hard time believing that,” Smith said. “He was the principal when I was there. I always thought he was a good guy myself.”
It’s doubtful whether anyone would be hearing about Ward now were it not for Martin’s video, and his wife’s decision to share it publicly.
Tengs Folwer praised Martin’s decision. “She said what many of us couldn’t or wouldn’t. She is giving voice to the people who were silenced and shamed.”
Martin said her husband told his father about Ward groping him, but his father said they were Native and there was nothing they could do about it. “For the record, this goes back a long ways and probably a lot of the boys remember this,” Rick Martin said in his video message. “Karl Ward butt f**ked me. And I had to keep my mouth shut about that.”
Rick Martin, who worked in the school, told his wife that is was difficult to be in same hallway as the sign commemorating the gym’s namesake.
Phillip Jackson said Martin told him about Ward’s abuse in the late 1980s when they worked together logging. When he was a child, Jackson said a male relative sexually abused him.
“I felt his pain after I heard,” Jackson said. “This issue is an ugly issue, but a good issue to talk about. I feel good when someone talks to me about it. The best thing you can do is to be honest.”
Loomis said he’s willing to talk to anyone who was affected by Ward and organize a meeting with anyone who wants to talk.
“To make Haines a better place, this should come out,” Loomis said. “I’d be willing to sit down with anybody else and talk it through. There are adults out here who are suffering. I’m sure there are other kids like Rick.”
Lynn Canal Counseling is offering walk-in services and staff will be available with or without an appointment.
Kokotovich agrees with Loomis. “People are too silent about stuff like this. It needs to be brought out.”
Haines Borough police chief Heath Scott met with Mayor Jan Hill, borough manager Debra Schnabel and other community leaders after police found Rick Martin’s video. He told them there’s a chance more victims, from multiple generations, will come forward. He said Ward’s status as a respected community leader indemnified him from public criticism for years, starting with his involvement at the Haines House.
“He brings in kids that are already torn out of their home that really have no voice,” Scott said. “He was probably given a certain level of trust when he came in with the Presbyterian Mission and the Haines House and he goes into the public school system, and that level of trust just continued. He operated in the shadows based on that level of trust.”
Scott encouraged other victims who might seek help to call the SEARHC crisis hotline at 1-877-294-0074 or Lynn Canal Counseling at 766-6383.
Ward’s widow, Doris Ward, who still lives in Haines told the CVN through a third party that she isn’t ready to talk and that she is in shock and in mourning of a life she thought she had.”