Walter Baldwin

I attended Walter Baldwin’s memorial service on Saturday.  Walt died around Thanksgiving.  Last time I saw him he was heading in to Donna’s Restaurant here for breakfast. I first met Walter when I was managing the troll fishery and he came in to chat. He said he’d just bought Eric McDowell’s boat, the Christopher K.  I didn’t know Eric at the time, and so it didn’t mean much.  Walter seemed like a simple guy from a village.  Turns out he was simple like Forrest Gump. Walter grew up in a village that no longer exists in western Alaska.  He attended mission schools out there, then went on to graduate from Mount Edgecumbe boarding school in Sitka – or as one of his classmates quipped – “Alcatraz” – because it’s on a smaller island next to town.  Walter was a good track runner. Somewhere along the way, he was with two other friends in Barrow, maybe.  He and the two others saw Nick Begich off at the airport and were the last to ever see him. Then he went on to college at Western Washington, earning a degree in Business Administration.  He came back to Fairbanks, and helped two others found Alaska Airlines- yes, THE Alaska Airlines. When Wally Hickle was governor – the first time- Walter was hired to be one of his administrators.  The way Walter told me when we were out on the fishing grounds – Doc Reiderer, also a troller, had Walter in his office as Walter wasn’t feeling well.  Doc said he had ulcers – “you need to go fishing for a few weeks”.  Walter told me he thought – well, I can stay and work for the governor and have money, or I can go fishing and have my health.  He chose fishing.  He was a mentor for me out trolling.  Always happy to share information and always happy.  Eric McDowell, another mentor, told me Walter used to fish out of a small whaler with a cover and would fish in any weather out in Cross Sound. I heard during the memorial that Walter was an amateur artist.  Again, I underestimated how good he was.  I saw his pencil portraits and some scenery paintings at the reception after the memorial.  Incredible work, especially the portrait drawings. In between all this, he married a woman 10 years his elder and raised her 5 kids as his own, was a seal hunter in Kodiak.  Always happy.  Always thinking about stuff.  I’m glad I went.  –

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