Leaving home

Quite a day on my way out of Bolivar. First, I went to have coffee with my old friend from Fairbanks. I stayed with him when I first arrived in Alaska. He was born and raised in Bolivar, and took his wife and family up to Alaska in about 1968 to be a teacher. He also did some gold mining, worked on the pipeline, and worked for the teamsters. He was at his childhood friends home, who was also the town barber and a school bus driver. His daughter and my sister Julie remain close friends.

I returned to where I was staying, said my goodbyes, and then headed to Dempsey Pipe, where my close friend Pat, along with his brother Pete and wife Kate, run the pipe business his great grandfather started during the oil boom days. I try to wear their hat in any photo I take for publicity.

I saw a few baseballs sitting on the file drawer, and saw that one said “Babe Ruth 1929”. I took the bait: are these for real? Sure they are, replied Pete. Then I looked at the Willie Mays signature – only it was signed “Willy Mayes”. They then fessed up and said the balls were the work of their older brother Mike. When we were kids, I took a pool cue up to Dempseys table in their basement. When I returned a few weeks later, Mike informed me that “Any cue left on the premises became property of the ownership”.

I headed up to my sister’s in Geneseo, where they invited some friends over for dinner. One had a brother who was in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, years before I arrived. Next on to my sister in Pittsburgh, where I watched my niece and 3 nephews favorite show with them for at least 2 hours: Top Chef, of all shows. They knew all the rules, etc., and by the end of the show, I was captivated like they were. Final stop was at my brother’s. I watched half of the Buff State-Ball State Mac championship with my nephew, and headed to bed. Buff State took ’em.

On my way out, my brother handed me Tim Russert’s book “Me and Big Russ” – I think that’s the name. I read it all on the trip from DC to Seattle. What a book. It might have been written about my family in my town, except for the Catholic school part. My dad and grandparents were from Buffalo, like Russert, and I caught alot of what he experienced there.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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