Category Archives: people
I received word over the the weekend, that photographer Tom Sadowski had passed away in his home in Maine this summer.
Anyone who has perused a gift store in Alaska has seen his postcards. Those postcards, were not in the Hallmark tradition, per se, but more of a quirky, sometimes zany, and always humorous visual, of life and travel in the 49th State.
Sadowski was a long time columnist for the Anchorage Free Press, writing some 500 weekly columns. He had gone into semi-retirement only last year.
Rest in peace Mr Sadowski.
I worked late on Monday, but I arrived home just in time for this:
Lydia Jacoby beat her own career best time, while swimming ahead of the current world record holder, and Olympic record holder, in order to take home the gold medal in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke.
In this case, home is Seward, Alaska.
Alaskans were pumped about Jacoby’s performance in the semifinal, which was 8 tenths of a second slower than her final swim.
Alaskans across the state watched the race, and several hundred fans met at the Seward train depot to catch it on the big screen. Jacoby grew up swimming with the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.
It was the first gold medal in swimming for an Alaskan.
Astronaut Michael Collins, the command module pilot for the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, passed away on Wednesday. Collins was 90.
“I am too old to fly to Mars, and I regret that. But I still think I have been very, very lucky. I was born in the days of biplanes and Buck Rogers, learned to fly in the early jets, and hit my peak when moon rockets came along. That’s hard to beat.” —Michael Collins
“The Female Robinson Crusoe“
In 1921, Ada Blackjack had been abandoned by her husband outside of Nome, Alaska with a five year old son who suffered from tuberculosis. She needed money to care for her son, so she joined an Arctic Expedition to Wrangel Island, which was being put together by explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. The expedition sought an Alaska Native seamstress who spoke english. Ada was hired on, and left for Wrangel Island in September 1921.
The expedition itself, was on thin ice from the very beginning. The goal was for the team to travel to Wrangel Island to claim it for the British Empire, even though the British government had shown little interest in the island previously. Stefansson, who organized the entire expedition, had no intention of going himself. Instead, four men: Allan Crawford, 20, Lorne Knight, 28, Fred Maurer, 28, and Milton Galle, 19, went with Blackjack, 23, and Vic the cat, age unknown, to claim the island.
The team had enough supplies to last six months, although Stefansson assured the expedition members that wild game would be easy to find.
The first year went relatively well, but by the end of autumn 1922, game had suddenly diminished from the island. By January 1923, the expedition was in trouble. Crawford, Maurer, and Galle left on foot across the sea ice to Siberia for help. Knight, who was suffering from scurvy, was left behind with Blackjack and Vic. The three men who went out on foot were never seen or heard from again. Ada cared for the ailing Knight for six months, until his death in June.
For the next three months, Ada Blackjack was alone on the island. She trapped fox, shot birds, and patrolled for polar bear. She even used the expedition camera gear to take selfies outside of camp.
On August 20, 1923, almost two full years from first arriving on Wrangel Island, the schooner Donaldson arrived to rescue the last surviving member of the expedition. The crew found Blackjack doing quite well for herself, stating: she “mastered her environment so far that it seems likely she could have lived there another year, although the isolation would have been a dreadful experience.”
Blackjack took her money from the expedition, which was less than promised, retrieved her son, and avoided the spotlight. Stefansson profited greatly from the failed expedition, but none of that money went to Blackjack. She spent much of her adult life in poverty. She did remarry, and had a second son, Billy. Bennett died in 1972 at the age of 58 from a stroke. Ada Blackjack passed away on May, 29 1983 at the Pioneer Home in Palmer, Alaska. Blackjack is buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, next to her son Bennett.
Truly, one of a kind. Rest in peace, Sir Sean Connery.
On this Dia de los Muertos, let’s pause to remember all of those who have passed before us. This year, there have been many to remember.
Growing up in Minnesota, there were two people that everyone knew by only their first name. One was Prince, the other was Sid.
Sid Hartman was the sports reporter for the Minneapolis paper. He also had a show on the juggernaut, at the time, WCCO radio.
Sid literally started out on the ground floor of the newspaper business, selling the papers on street corners of North Minneapolis when he was nine years old. In 1936, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to take over the best intersections. By 1944 Sid had made his way to the sports department, and he wrote his first column for the Minneapolis paper in 1945.
From the sports desk, Sid became the de facto GM of the Minneapolis Lakers, when he was 27. He delivered the $15,000 check himself, at the Detroit airport, to have the Detroit Gems, of the NBL, to move to Minneapolis. The Lakers won the NBL title their first year. Behind George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers would go on to win 5 NBA titles before moving to Los Angeles. While doing that, he kept his day job as a sports reporter. He was also instrumental in the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota, to become the Minnesota Twins.
Sid came out of an era where the term conflict of interest was rarely uttered. He considered himself a reporter, not a writer. Sid based his entire reporting ethos on building relationships. Sid was an unapologetic “homer”. He loved Minnesota and its sports teams, but nothing was more dear to his heart than the University of Minnesota.
The gag line, “Sid’s close, personal friends” started on ‘CCO radio. From Bud Grant to George Steinbrenner to Bobby Knight, everyone in the sports world seemed to be Sid’s close, personal friend. When Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was Sid who introduced him.
Callers to Sid’s radio show who disagreed with him on any issue, were dismissed as “Geniuses”. How dare we second guess the “experts”. Of course, disagreeing with Sid was half the fun, it was the main reason we called in.
Sid passed away on Sunday at 100 years of age. His final column was in that morning’s paper. It was his 119th column of 2020. Impressive. Sid had 21,235 bylines with his name on them for the Minneapolis paper over a career span of 75 years. He also spent over 65 years on the radio, doing one sports show or another.
STRIB writer Jim Souhan wrote recently that it wasn’t like Minneapolis had their version of Sid Hartman, Minneapolis had the only one. There wasn’t another version in New York, or Chicago or Los Angeles. Sid was unique; there was only the one.
There have been a lot of tributes and online salutes, but the one by Ryan Saunders, the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the one that hit home the most. The final line says:
Sid was a remarkable example of living life to the fullest and finding your passion – may we all learn from the legacy he leaves.
In all the photos, there you were, right in the middle of the gathering. Often surrounded by kids, and almost always wearing a huge smile. My favorite photo of you though, is an old, black & white one, and it’s just you. A young high school athlete, looking confident, about to go on a date, standing in front of a first car. A 1950 Ford.
We went through some tough times, the three of us, with you leading the way by example. Somehow, even working two jobs and extremely long hours, you were always there. There were dance recitals and football games; you must have rushed through the entire day, but there you were, off to the side, quietly watching.
When you couldn’t be there, you found someone who could. I often wondered at that sacrifice. How difficult was it for you to allow someone to stand in for you? There were camping trips, fishing trips, outdoor adventures that you knew fueled a flame, yet you had the bravery to allow another to strike the match. I never asked you about that, and I never told you, that I knew all along, that it was you who provided the tinder.
There were a lot of sporting events, however. Williams Arena, Mariucci, Memorial Stadium, The Met, the Dome. We ran the gamut. We sat in the rain, in the cold, in the sun. We saw the first Hobey winner in action. We tailgated. We watched as the goal posts came down and were carried across the parking lot, but you wouldn’t let me liberate your seats, even though I brought a tiny socket set for the occasion. You were the one to give me that set in the first place, which I may have reminded you of at the time.
I followed a different trail, and I know it was difficult for you. Every year, my eyes seemed to search a little further west, and eventually I found my way to Alaska. That fact did not thrill you, but you tolerated it, as best as you could. Every year you came up, and every year I hoped you would see what I saw, feel what I felt. Then one year, we were sitting at the gate, waiting for you to board the airplane for the flight back to civilization. That one had been a fun visit; we had gone all over the state, and we had met a lot of different people. You said, “I get it now. Alaska suits you. You belong here.” That was probably the best gift I have ever received.
Our paths have diverged now. Advice I will have to obtain from the archives. Luckily for me, the archives are full. Pictures may be few, but memories run rampant. Life is a short game, but you played it extremely well. You taught a lot of people that kindness was a strength, and wisdom something hard earned, tainted by experience.
I do not have any answers. Mostly there are only questions right now, and a huge empty void. Over the years, I have shared a poem with a few people that I originally found by reading Ernest Gann. The poem is often attributed to Henry Van Dyke, or the Rev. Luther F. Beecher. Take your pick, but for me, it originated with Gann.
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze,
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of her destination.
Her diminished size is in me, and not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
there are other eyes that are watching for her coming;
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“There she comes!”