Last week at our writer’s group, Karla Tedtsen read us this poem about quilt making.  It is such a well-thought-out poem detailing the quilt-making process that I thought I would put it in here for the enjoyment of all you quilters, and the rest of us as well.

Making a quilt is what I love to do.  It’s a piece of my heart given freely to you.

The process begins with the choosing of fabric,  Then I decide, is it traditional or maverick?

Piecing the top is an art form of its own,  With seams sewn together, ripped out, then re-sewn.

Creating the border is another decision,  Having it lay flat requires painstaking precision.

Once the quilt sandwich has batting in middle,  Squaring it up becomes a frustrating riddle.

Quilting comes next, must plan on design,  Simple or dense, have I an idea in mind?

Choosing thread to complement the whole,  Embroidery or not, just what is my goal?

Fancy it up or just keep it plain? Decisions to be made can drive me insane.

But because it’s for you, the one I hold dear,  I’ll eventually choose, I will persevere.

And finally, when the last stitch is in place,  A big smile emerges, covering my face.

Will you like this small treasure?  That’s not really a care,

It’s simply a gift from my heart  With you I can share.


Larry and Flo

Larry and Flo — 50th wedding anniversary

Larry Tong grew up in Madras, Oregon, about 48 miles north of Bend.  Florence came from Redmond, which was 28 miles south of Madras. Though her name is Florence, most people call her Flo.  Larry first introduced Flo to his family as Loree, her middle name.  They still call her Loree.

In 1964-65, Larry commuted three days a week to attend classes in Bend at the Central Oregon Community College.  Larry says, “I was kind of ignorant and got 8:00 classes, so I had to get up early to drive my Corvair to school.”  After one year of college, Larry started working at a newspaper office.  Flo, who was 17 at the time they met, cared for an elderly couple.  The woman was blind and sat in the middle of the living room floor most of the time; she ate and slept there.  Her husband, who had been in the Spanish-American war, loved to tell stories to the high school kids in the college.

The lady had a collection of “End of Day” glass that Flo had to wash.  She got very nervous doing this job, as the glass was very fragile and she was afraid she would break it.  “End of Day” glass was made with all the glass left over when the glass-blower had finished for the day.  The odds and ends were blown into an “end of day” piece.  Flo never broke one of them.

Flo and Larry met at a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve party. Larry came to visit the party, not intending to stay.  Flo says she fell in love with him at first sight.  She tended to be shy; however, she followed him home and made sure they got acquainted.  They were married 5 weeks later.

Flo tells the story of going driving with her mom and seeing Larry.  She said to her mom, “Honk, Mom!  That’s Larry.”  Her mom said, “I don’t want to honk at that beatnik.” However, because Larry had a job, the community accepted him, even though he had a beard.  Beatniks had a bad rep. The community there was redneck cowboy and thought nothing of rounding up squatting beatniks every now and then and kicking them out of town.

Larry says, “Flo was 17 when I met her.  She turned 18 in January and didn’t need her

Larry and Flo Wedding

Bride and Groom

parents’ permission to marry.  However, Larry, then 20, had to get his parents’ permission.  They were married in her parents’ home by a Justice of the Peace.  They have now been married 51 years.

In early times in Gustavus, there were many young couples who had not been together all that long.  One time Rob Bosworth asked Larry how long he & Flo had been married.  When Larry answered, “Ten years,” Rob said, “Wow!  I don’t know anyone who has been married that long.”

Larry said, “What really cemented our relationship was our parents.  After three or four weeks, the couple brought their parents together to meet.  The older folks had so much in common that they ignored us.  They had so much to share.  They realized we might really get along because our backgrounds were the same.”

After Larry and Flo married, Larry was working for the weekly newspaper, The Redmond Spokesman, in Redmond, OR. He worked as a pressman and linotype operator.  The newlyweds lived in an apartment ½ block from the newspaper office.  Within a year, they bought a little house that had been built in 1942.  They paid $16,000.  The owner wanted $500 down, but the couple only had $300 in the bank.  The owner accepted that. Their mortgage payments were $75/month for the first year, then reduced to $60.

On October 9, 1968, Joe was born.  A few months after Joe’s birth, Larry asked his boss for a raise.  He was getting $3.00 per hour.  Five weeks later, he got a nickel raise.  He started looking for other employment.  He found a job advertised in a trade magazine in Juneau.  Larry had all the skills they needed.  He didn’t even know where Juneau was.  At the time he first got to Juneau, the population was 16,000. His employer paid his way up.  He wanted to see if Larry had the skills he needed before hiring him.  After a couple of days he got the job.

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  If you could rub Aladdin’s lamp, what would you wish for?  There is a man in Gustavus who might wish for an avalanche of understanding that would end  our destructive ways and uncover the knowledge we need to protect and preserve our natural world.  His name is Kim Heacox.

Kim is a man whose loves are deep and lasting:  His wife, Melanie; his close friends; his celebration of nature, and his passion for Glacier Bay.  He asks that we be hyper aware, and that we do our best to protect our planet whenever possible.  Kim’s motto in all his writing is “Change Everything Now.”  He feels we’d best change things for the better and wake up while we still can, because, given the grave issues facing us, such as climate change and its evil cousin, ocean acidification, “we are sleepwalking into the future.”

Kim told me a story about a trip he made in 1979, after his first year as an interpretive ranger/naturalist in Glacier Bay.  At the end of his summer season, he had saved about $5,000.  He took a Greyhound across America, visited friends in Florida, and flew to Europe.  He first visited Spain, where he volunteered for the World Wildlife Fund at Coto de Doñana National Park, one of Europe’s most important wetland preserves.  A major site for migrating birds, the park is home to five threatened bird species.  Kim worked on habitat restoration.

In November of 1979, he went to Istanbul.  He was scheduled to go to the Soviet Union, and had all his tickets; however, on Christmas day the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and all U.S. tours were cancelled.  So, in early 1980 he went to Bulgaria.  There he met a dissident who had been thrown into a Siberian gulag for three years of hard labor because he’d distributed dissident pamphlets.  When Kim said, “Really?”, the dissident took off his shirt and showed the scars on his back from being whipped.

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Don Bryant was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Margerie and Vaughn Bryant.  His father was a news correspondent for the Associated Press.  Don has one full brother, Vaughn, older than he, who is now a professor of anthropology at Texas A & M, and one half-brother, Jim, who presently flies for UPS.  When Don was still an infant, the family moved from Rio to Santiago, Chile.  Because his nanny in Chile spoke only Spanish, it became his first language as a toddler.  Then they moved to New Orleans when he was about three years old.  He lived in New Orleans for about five years.  Their completely different accent influenced his English speech.  Then, as the family followed his father when work took him to a new location, they moved to Texas.  Here, his dad worked in public relations.

His parents divorced in 1956.  In Austin, his mother, Marge, met and married Jim Woodworth, an Alaskan, who was a professional hunter/guide in Kodiak.  Don went to Alaska with them.  Marge and Jim homesteaded on the Kenai River, near Sterling, Alaska.  Jim wrote a book titled “The Kodiak Bear.”  In his book, he used “Monarch of Dead Man’s Bay” as one chapter title.  Later, another author used the same title for his book about a Kodiak bear.  Jim also wrote articles for the pre-Alaskan magazine called “The Alaska Sportsman.”

In 1959, Don went back to Texas.  After about a year, he went to live with his brother, Vaughn, who was in college.  In 1961, Vaughn and Don went to Europe by ship, where they were supposed to go to school.  His brother studied in Germany and Don went to school in France.  The school was for foreigners, to teach them French.  Don says he lasted about a week.  He knew no French when he started his classes, and the teachers spoke only French.  So, Don started hanging out at the beach with the Swedes, who all spoke English.

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Fritz (short for Frederick) has a tee-shirt that reads “Bundin er batlaus madur –bound is boatless man.”  He subscribes to Wooden Boat magazine and Messing About in Boats.  His grandparents on his mother’s side came from the fjords of Norway, so he is l/2 Norwegian.   He loves to build, repair, fish from, and journey in boats.  He spent the first thirteen years of his life in Sitka, living on Sheldon Jackson campus across the street from the beach, rowing with his neighborhood friend in a small wooden rowboat.


SV Red Sea

When Fritz moved to Juneau as a teenager, his dad bought him a 16-foot wooden skiff and an 18-horse engine.  He began to teach himself how to repair and replace boat engines; how to wire and repair boat electronics; how to build wooden boats.


Fritz and I crewed on a 56-foot ketch, named the Red Witch, out of Juneau when we were 20.  We were running before a storm outside of Baranof Warm Springs when 19-year-old deckhand friend John raised the sail but over-stretched the winch’s reach.  Screw-bolted into the wood, it actually ripped out of the mast and hit John in the chest.  It could have killed him, but he was unhurt.  We made it back into the protection of the cove, where we all took hot tubs and hiked the hills of natural hot springs to avoid the raging captain carefully re-mantling the winch so we could continue on our journey.  A few days later we hit an unseen iceberg south of Juneau in Taku Inlet, heard the screaming blame of the captain one too many times and decided to leave the ship for good once back in Juneau. This was not the captain for us, but we certainly had sailing in our blood from then on.  Two things remain to this day – I am willing and capable of going out in any weather to deal with lines, then coil them carefully for the next person. The second is that I can tie a fast bowline knot, which I use to this day for tying up everything.


SV Soleglad

In 1977, at the age of 23, we moved to Gustavus with our klepper kayak.  For the first three years or so, Fritz traveled in the kayak either alone or with a friend up into Glacier Bay for two weeks each spring.  About this time we found ourselves moving up in the boat world.  We first rescued a small plywood skiff from a Juneau beach.  After two years, we acquired the 22-foot Soleglad, meaning sunset in Norwegian.  This scow sloop with lee-boards had been built by Manual from Haines in 1952, the year of Fritz’s birth. Fritz and my brother-in-law Jim  sailed it down Lynn Canal and Icy Strait to Gustavus.  We spent the summer when our oldest daughter Lena was two years old sailing and motoring all over Glacier Bay.

As a mother, then 28 years old, I found myself losing confidence in myself when afraid for the safety of my child.  I was no longer the 20-year-old sailing off on the ocean among men deck mates.  Now I felt responsible for others.  It surprised me as much as Fritz that I worried so much on the sea.  Though I never got seasick, living on a small sailboat in Glacier Bay I had to deal with my fear to enjoy life on the water.  I kept a small journal.

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Robert Ernest Luders entered the world on June 20, 1923, in Berkeley, CA.

Bob’s mother, Alma Vass,  had graduated from art school in San Francisco.  She was an entrepreneur and owned a design shop with two other women in the city.  She had been invited to study art in France.  Bob says, “Fortunately for us, that’s right when she met my father, so that was the end of her art career and the beginning of a family.”  It was not an easy choice, but one she thought about carefully.

Bob’s grandparents came from a well-to-do family in Lübeck, Germany.  They moved to London in the mid-1800s.  As tensions between the English and Germans grew, Bob’s grandparents were urged to go back to Germany, but they opted to stay in London instead.  The family was extremely wealthy.  They had become interested in gas lighting, put a significant amount of their money into it and lost their fortune.  So, “disgraced,” they packed everything up, including the grand piano, and shipped it to Texas, then overland to California.  Bob’s uncle had purchased land in Bakersfield, California, sight unseen. They lost two European manor houses and ended up in a tar paper shack.  Bob’s uncle disappeared and his grandfather took one look at the place and folded; he died shortly after that. Bob’s father, Ernest, was now responsible for his mother, his two sisters and himself. Bob says, “In those days, in wealthier families, as soon as you were born you were given a silver spoon with your name engraved on it.”  The highly educated wealthy class didn’t “work;” they managed their estates and businesses.  For Ernest, however, when things got tough, you did anything you could to provide for your family.

In Bakersfield,  they started a farm, raising strawberries and produce.  They even planted an orchard. Unfortunately, the water they had been promised wasn’t always available.  At one point, the little irrigation water they received simply ran into a hole in the sand.  Their solution was to plug the hole by “planting” Bob’s Aunt Anna. That hole was so large that Anna stood in it and they shoveled sand around her.  They added sand until Anna was covered up to her hips.  With the area now covered with sand, the water was forced to the plants.

Eventually, they had to abandon the farm.  The land was worthless.  Although oil had been found in Bakersfield, none came from their property.  The good news was that because of the land boom, they were able to get jobs at the land office in town.  Then, an old acquaintance from Germany suggested they go to San Francisco where Ernest could get a job with Schwabacker-Frey, a large company selling stationery, photographic supplies and various printed items.  Then came the earthquake of  1906.  The business was destroyed, so Bob’s father worked during the clean-up and reconstruction.

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The more of these Gustavus interviews I do, the more I am amazed at the people who live here.  So many of them love to travel, and have been to far-flung parts of the world.  Aimee Youmans is no exception, but has done more than her share of seeing and experiencing distant places.  It seems to me that there are three kinds of people in this community.  One group is content spending their life here.  Another group has done their exploring of the planet, and find in Gustavus a quiet place to spend their later years.  Many others consider Gustavus a home base, from which they can travel and explore where they will, and when their journeys are completed, they return to the calm, comfort, and familiarity of home.  I believe people here are oddly unique, and Aimee fits that description.

Aimee Youmans was born in Seattle on September 6, 1948.  The family immediately moved to Sitka, where Aimee lived until she was ten.  Her mom, Anne, got a job as a nurse at the Sitka Pioneer’s Home, where she worked for 25 years.  For Aimee’s first ten years she lived in Sitka.  She says a bit of her heart is still there.

When she was ten, her father already had a job at Glacier Bay Park.  He was discovered by the Park Service.  He had been prospecting.  Though he had done nothing illegal, her dad said they hired him so they could keep track of him.  He worked on the Nunatak, the supply boat for the park service, as a deckhand.  At the time, there was only a foot path to the park.  It was decided to start building a station at Bartlett Cove, and her dad became the foreman.  They got the roads in and docks built.  When Aimee was five or six she visited her dad, who lived in a wall tent in the summer and a small cabin in the winter.

Then began the annual family exploration of Glacier Bay, for two weeks every summer.  Aimee recalls, “My mother would pack the big ham, spam and foodstuffs in the Spindrift, our ‘marine station wagon’ that my dad built from a ‘Kriskraft’ kit.  We would set up camp in the Ibach’s old cabin in Reid Inlet, the kitchen and bunks for my brother and me, and a wall tent master bedroom just outside.  At this time, Muz Ibach’s trees, rhubarb, and the vestiges of her garden were all the green in the rocky new landscape of the West Arm of Glacier Bay.  We rarely saw another boat or plane, and never any animals at all.

One night a berg came into the pothole harbor on the high tide and picked our boat off the hook.  What a surprise in the morning!  My dad had to row the little punt halfway to Russell Island to retrieve it.  Who knows where and when it would have been found had he not spied it far out in the channel!”

Another favorite family jaunt was to take their boat behind Lester Island in the Beardslees to a small island called “Strawberry Island.”  Aimee and her family used to go there every year to collect raspberries from prolific bushes at the old fox farm.  They also gathered their strawberries from both sides of the road out to the park before there were trees, giving them a plentiful bonanza of berries.

In her tenth year, Aimee and her brother, Ken, came out to live with their dad.  Their older brother and sister were just finishing high school in Sitka, so they stayed with their mother until they graduated.  The Gustavus School needed eight children to start.  Ken and Aimee were number seven and eight, so there were enough to open.  The school at the time was held in the former preschool.  Over time this building served as a grade school, preschool, and the post office.

Aimee’s mom saved up her days off and flew out from Sitka when she could.  She flew the milk run — Angoon; Tenakee; Pelican; finally, to Gustavus.  Her plane was a weather plane — a Grumman Goose, which was a World War II plane.  To get from Juneau to Sitka she flew on a PBY, another World War II plane, which landed at Merchant’s Wharf in downtown Juneau.  In later years, her father would visit Anne via skiff along the Outer Coast.  He traveled in a small boat in a big ocean, and the trip took most of the day.

Ken and Aimee were park kids.  Then there were homesteaders’ kids (Chase family,) and some children from CAA:  (Civil Aeronautics Administration) families who stayed to maintain the emergency airfield.  These were pretty mobile families, so the kids “changed” from year to year.

Aimee was in fifth grade when she started school in Gustavus.  One teacher instructed all eight students.  Aimee says, “The students’ purpose seemed to be to entertain the community.  We put on many shows, programs, and music events.” During the winter, Aimee and Ken came to school on the snowplow which their dad drove.  He picked up the Chase kids as well, then proceeded to the school.

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Annie “Cricket” Mackovjak tells an amazing story. She has lived through some great adventures, and has come out of them carrying only the benevolent scars of memory.  Read about this first part of her life journey and see if you don’t agree with me that she must be protected by a very competent guardian angel.

Annie’s story will appear in this blog in two parts.  This first part describes her adventures up to her marriage to Jim Mackovjak in December of 1978.  The second section lists the highlights of her life after moving to Gustavus.

Annie Osgood Mackovjak was born on December 5, 1948, in Lincoln, Maine.  The family home was in Prentiss, a town so small that some people in Maine didn’t know where to find it.  Annie grew up on Maple Grove Farm, a dairy and potato farm.  Annie’s brother tapped maple trees from their farm for Christmas gifts.  A neighboring family tapped the trees for syrup to make their living, using horses to provide labor, doing things the old-fashioned way.

In the 20s and 30s the family sold lots of apples, sending them by train to Boston.  They no longer harvested the orchard by the time Annie came along.  However, her mother still made lots of applesauce.  These days, her brother still lives on the farm, and the deer eat more of the apples than the humans do.

Annie has always loved being outside, and when she was young she was given the nickname of “Cricket,” as they chirped every night in the summer.  (This nickname actually came back to her twice later in her life.)  She earned the nickname from her mom, though she spent many hours outside with her dad, helping with feeding and milking the cattle, getting in the hay, and digging potatoes.  When she was six or seven she had a pony that she rode a great deal.  She didn’t have a bicycle until she reached eighth grade.  Very often after school her dad would have her pony saddled and waiting in the stable so she could ride.

When she was ten, her dad got a sleigh on skis.  They lived on a side road with little traffic, so she could take her brother on rides in the winter.

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Greg Streveler is a modest and unassuming man who does not agree that he is a Gustavus icon; however, I believe the description fits.  He has worked for many years, either for pay or simply as a concerned citizen, to move forward projects designed to enhance life here.  His contributions to our  community, no matter what he says, have been enormous.

Greg was born in Racine, Wisconsin.  He lived with his folks across the state line on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.  His dad worked in the steel mills as an electrician.  When Greg was six, they all moved to Marathon County in Wisconsin, where his parents were born.  The family lived in the country about 30 miles south of Wausau.  His dad was the “Mark Berry” of their community.  (Mark Berry is the local man in Gustavus who wears many hats and fixes what we break.)  Greg says his dad could fix anything.  Greg was often his “gofer.”

They lived in farm country.  Though they didn’t run a farm themselves, they were surrounded by them.  Consequently, Greg grew up working for farmers.  He says, “To this day I have to get my hands in dirt or I don’t feel right.”

Greg worked for a German farmer, Joseph Baur, who paid him what he earned and taught him to be useful.  He adds, “There was a difference between then and now.  During my youth, people were poor enough that the work I did for them really mattered.  That’s always stuck with me.  I wanted to be useful.”

Greg says he had a lovely childhood.  He had a very tight family; his parents were good to each other and to the children.  The neighbors and his parents were good because they gave Greg things to do that made him feel worthwhile.  He was lucky as a kid.  Everyone treated the children well in the community too — they all looked after each other.  Greg feels grateful to have had that.

At 12 years old, he was put in charge of the garden, 1/4 acre in size.  They grew everything in that garden.  His dad helped him when he could but he said, “This is up to you.”  He learned to use a rototiller and spent a lot of time with a hoe.

A moment from his childhood:  Greg loved sports.  His dad said they didn’t have money to get him a ball glove.  Greg finally earned enough to buy his first baseman’s mitt for $12.95.  It had Ted Williams’ name on it.  Greg felt it important to work and to see what changes earnings could bring.  He had that mitt until he moved to Alaska.  While in Anchorage,  Greg watched  some young people playing catch.  One tall black lad had no glove; he was catching with his bare hands.  Greg gave the boy his glove, deciding that he needed it more than Greg did.

For his last two years of high school, his folks sent him to Stevens Point, Wisconsin to stay with an aunt and uncle.  This was the first time he had lived away from home.  He went to a school run by the Christian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order.  He found out he could think!  In his earlier years, he just got through school; nobody learned about thinking.  He was more interested in playing baseball.  When he went to that school, he found it pretty cool to think.  His grades improved; he took that self-teaching skill to university.  He still uses it to this day.

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Since his arrival last May, David Thomas has jumped into Gustavus community life with both feet, introducing his own roasted coffee brand, Sentinel Coffee, and initiating a number of new activities here.  He has taken over the editorship of the Strawberry Point Pioneer, our local newspaper, started a “slow food” recurring event, and begun a monthly foreign film showing.  What a great addition to the town!  His energy and ideas add new enjoyment to our lives.  Read on to learn of the niche he is building for himself here.

David moved here because his wife, Louise (known as Lou,) a marine biologist, got a job at Glacier Bay Park.  A Juneau woman, she was hired as a whale ecologist, arriving here in November of 2015.  As David was working for the legislative session, he waited until it was over to move.  The couple found a cabin to rent from Karen and Larry Platt near the Good River, through the recommendation of a friend.

Actually, David had been here before.  Gustavus was the first place in Alaska he visited.  After completing a job in 2001, he returned to his birthplace, Massachusetts, and got a job as a bar manager.  However, he decided he wanted to travel again.  He looked for work on CoolWorks.com, and found a job working as a server at the Bear Track Inn for the summer of 2001.

After leaving Gustavus behind, David started a small coffee shop in Woodstock, Vermont, traveled the country in an RV and finally wound up on the Oregon coast, where he set up another coffee shop.  The Oregon coast taught David surf kayaking, hitchhiking, and pastry-making. It is also where he met his future wife, Lou.  David’s Ye Olde Green Salmon Coffee  is still open to this day, owned and operated by David’s original business partner.  A well-known eccentric hippy joint, David always insisted of the Green Salmon, “We are not hippies!”

In the summer of 2010, he went with Lou to the Pribilof Islands, where she had a job as a biological technician.  That summer he worked as a volunteer.  David and Lou were married on October 3, 2010, and went to New Zealand for the winter.  In the summer of 2011 they started doing the fur seal count together as part of a “mark and recapture” study with NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) in the Pribilofs.

David has an established coffee business in Juneau.  This business is not his first experience with roasting coffee. His operation is small.  He services 6 cafes in Juneau, and caters to individual customers on a subscription service.  At present, he returns to  Juneau every Monday on the ferry and comes home again on Wednesday.  On his ferry-rides, he does bookkeeping and paperwork.  In Juneau, he does his deliveries with a helper, as there are lots of stops.  They deliver to homes, offices, the six cafes, and Bartlett Regional Hospital.  Besides coffee, David carries 20 different types of tea and a chocolate sauce to die for.

To Stephanie Shor’s satisfaction, David took over the newspaper, the Strawberry Point Pioneer, in November of 2016.  His goal is to make the paper free.  In order to do so, he needs more advertisers and sponsors.  Right now it costs him $2.46 to print each copy, and at a customer cost of $2.00 to put the paper out, he loses money even if every copy is sold.  If he can cover printing costs with advertising consistently, he will make the paper free.

David got his publishing experience just out of high school.  He got involved in something called “zines” — these were self-published, small, not mass-produced booklets, requiring a small printer.  They used to be printed in small batches in bookstores, and included short stories, poetry, and essays.  Those types of magazines tended to be politically charged, though David was often more philosophical in his writing.  He found the experience to be helpful when he started doing the newspaper.

David has started a special food event here.  “Slow Food” was a movement which began in Italy about 15 years ago, as a protest against a McDonald’s moving to the Spanish Steps in Rome.  Started by one man in Italy, it soon became international.  It initially focused on traditional foods and methods, hence “slow.”  The movement had a credo:  To advocate for diversity in ecosystems and society; protect natural resources for future generations; help people and the environment to depend on each other; promote food that is locally, seasonally, and sustainably grown.  As David really likes cultural foods of all different types, these dinners offer him a chance to show his skills.   He likes recreating traditional recipes, and seeing how the way we prepare food has developed over time.

Gustavus “slow food” nights will be announced on Gustavus Buy/Sell/Trade, so watch for these announcements, bring your dish, and attend!  You will enjoy an excellent meal.

For our added community enjoyment, David is now showing foreign films once a month.  Watch the paper for the schedule.  David says he owned a café in Oregon where he did a film series.  He says choosing is hard with subtitles.  He likes to have seen the movie so he knows it is a good one, that does not include any offensive material.

David has been asked to join the Gustavus Community Center board, so he will have yet another place to utilize his talents.

In his spare time, David’s main focus is kayaking.  In Gustavus he has the opportunity to participate in this hobby quite regularly.  Actually, he met Lou while living and kayaking in Newport, Oregon, so it is an activity they enjoy together.



Now that you have learned of David’s activities since he has moved to Gustavus, go on to read “the rest of the story.”  You’ll read something of David’s many travels since he left his family home in Massachusetts, more about how he met his wife, Lou, an interesting look at the Pribilof Islands, and background on how his present business developed.  I believe that you will agree that he is definitely a valuable addition to our community.

David was born in 1979 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  He lived in the small suburb of Holden, living there through high school.  By then he was ready for a change.

His love of the outdoors began in his youth.  Here is a picture of the countryside close to his Massachusetts home.

He says he didn’t have the best time in high school and decided to go into seasonal work rather than college.  He got a job as a food server at Yellowstone National Park.  This job made him realize he could travel through his work.  He liked to work places where he traveled because in this way he could become acquainted with the local people, whereas tourists don’t really fully understand an area.  He lived inside the park so he could see its inner workings, and thoroughly explore the back country.  Being there through every weekend, he could see the seasons progressing and animals changing with their seasonal cycles.  He says you can really get to know a place when you see those changes.

Immediately upon his arrival in Yellowstone, he decided to hike up Electric Peak.  He had not experienced high-altitude hiking before, so it is not surprising that he got altitude sickness.

David’s favorite place to camp while in Yellowstone was the Lamar Valley.  He began camping there after a group of wolves had been relocated in the park, and it was the first time he heard them howl before he moved to Gustavus.

He worked at the winter lodge at Old Faithful and at the Yellowstone Inn, built by a 21-year-old architect.  The Inn has an impressive central fireplace and twisted wood banisters.

For the next winter season, he got a job at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida.  It was a private club for the rich folks.  David hired on as a server and then started bartending at the “clubhouse” for the country club.  The club had three golf courses, but the clubhouse was only for those on the members’ list.  It was very exclusive; no guests were admitted.  David said it gave him a view into another world.

He met several famous people while working there.  One of them also happened to be named David Thomas.  He was the founder of Wendy’s.  When the two were introduced, the David Thomas from Wendy’s said, “I must challenge you to a duel, because there can be only one David Thomas.”

He lived on the grounds at first, but wanted to experience more of the Keys.  He moved in with two other guys who rented an apartment — a dumpy one-bedroom accommodation in town.  He stayed there for a month and a half, and couldn’t handle it any longer.  There were already three people staying in this small apartment, and then another worker from the club moved in.  The next new resident was a 15-year-old homeless girl.  One of the men owned a parrot.  David gave the parrot to friends to deliver to his sister.

He says he made more money at that job than he ever had before, yet he never had money because he always spent it.  Getting rid of pests was an ongoing undertaking.  Cockroaches and ants filled the apartment.  To get rid of them, the apartment dwellers finally brought in lizards from outside.  This solution was a trade-off, as the lizards chirped all night and caused sleeplessness.

He had to get out of that situation, so he moved into a camping spot right next to the channel, at the John Pennakamp Coral Reef State Park.  The campground lay on the border of the park, making it ideal for David, as he could jump in his kayak from there and go out to paddle and snorkel.  It could be considered a strange transition, going from staying at the posh club to a hammock  in a campground, but he found it a very satisfactory place to be.

When David went kayaking from his camp, he traveled out to a group of mooring buoys and secured his craft.  The buoys were grouped together above a statue called “Jesus Christ of the Abyss.”  Permanently anchored on the ocean floor, it was 20 feet below the surface.  David found it to be a good starting point for his underwater snorkel explorations.

For a summer season he went to Newport, Rhode Island, and worked as a server/bartender at the Vanderbilt Hotel downtown.  A British company owned the hotel, so David learned a lot about European-style fine dining and bartending.  His “teacher” was a fellow who made a career out of butlering.  David got to know how to do things according to British tradition and how these traditions came about.

David liked mixology.  He mixed drinks all the time, and found that coffee often made an interesting addition.  Over the years he learned to mix flavor profiles.  He took courses on scotch and wine.  Many high-end hotels offer courses to learn about such drinks.

While in Newport, David spent a lot of time learning how to sail.  Sailing was very good at the time he was there.  The Americus Cup used to be held there, and the town boasted a large sailing community.  He had taken a sailing class in high school and really liked it.  He got back into it in Newport, doing a class that summer.

He spent a winter in Vail, Colorado, skiing and bartending.  Next he went to Maine for a summer season at Acadia National Park, which is close to Bar Harbor.

The next winter he worked as bar manager for the Picadilly Pub, right next to the Patriots Stadium in Massachusetts.  Being back home, he realized he didn’t really want to be in Massachusetts.  He began to see what this lifestyle was all about.  He went in to work at 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., and got off work at 5:00 in the morning.  He realized his life had become unhealthy.  He had not much chance there to be involved with nature; he liked places where people were more  connected to their natural world.  However, his job gave him good experience, which would be useful later.

Summer, 2001, he got online and found a job in Gustavus through CoolWorks.com.  He worked as a server at the Bear Track Inn with Mike Olney, then the inn’s manager.  He really liked Alaska.  The job provided his first west coast experience.  However, warned of the winter cold and dark, he veered away from an Alaskan winter.

Instead, he went to Vermont, where he worked for the Rockefeller resorts in Woodstock, Vermont.  David liked Vermont because of winter skiing and an interesting view into traditional Northeast culture in the summer.

David said, “For me, my development started when I left home.  I started learning a lot about my philosophy of life when I lived in Vermont.  I went to the Maple Forest Monastery in Woodstock and started meditation classes there.”  Maple Forest is a Thich Nhat Hanh monastery, following his teachings.  David says he studied various philosophies, learning how to get more control of his life and his emotions.  He found it helpful to be able to learn and then practice his lessons.

At this point in his life, David decided he would no longer work for other people.  He started a coffeehouse in Vermont.  He began brewing his own coffee and baking for his business.  He found that other bakers were not consistent in quality, so he decided to do the job himself.  He wanted to keep featuring a high-quality product.  That started his baking career.  Since he was purchasing kitchen equipment, he felt he might as well start roasting coffee as well.

He learned his roasting skills while he worked.  He took courses with Specialty Coffee Association of America.  Here he learned how to roast coffee beans.  He also took courses at traditional shows in Boston, or in other big cities.

David learned baking through on-the-job training.  He took small courses in bread making.  He took one from King Arthur Flour, who offers a class in Vermont.  Later, when he lived in Oregon, he began doing more and more pastry, from making a couple of choices to baking lots of variety.  David likes pastry baking the best, and says he might be talked into doing a local bakery class.

David teamed up with another traveling seasonal worker , Deb Gisetto.  He sold his shop in Vermont and decided to purchase a camper trailer.  They traveled around the Mexican border and got a feel for the country. They intended to live in the trailer and get jobs on the west coast.  They went through Oregon and Washington.  At Port Townsend they turned around and started coming back.  They ended up on the Oregon coast at Florence, Oregon, on the Siuslaw River.

They intended to try to find some earth-based work, but the owner of the trailer park  where they lived had a building on a dock by the river.  He found out that David had a background in the coffee business, and wanted him to convert the building to a coffee shop.  He told David, “You don’t have to pay rent until you start making money.”  So they started cleaning the space.  The venture became a fiasco.  They ran into so many problems with permitting for the business that it became impossible to continue.  As they already had about $18,000 in the venture, they decided to find another spot for a coffee shop.  They went to Yachats, Oregon, and started the Green Salmon Coffee Shop.  It included a bakery and a coffee roastery.  After five years there, David sold the shop to Deb, and they parted ways there.  Deb kept the business.

David became interested in meditation after his initial experience at Maple Forest.  While at the coffee shop in Yachats, he heard of a group of Tibetan monks who were touring, trying to raise money for a monastery in India.  David contacted them and invited them to Yachats.  There, they created a sand mandala, right on the floor of the coffee shop.

The monks worked on the mandala in shifts.  It took five days to build.  As they lay the sand down, they meditated on prayers for peace.  On the sixth day the finished mandala was swept up and thrown into the ocean, releasing the prayers into the world.  Hundreds of people came through while they were working on the mandala, and over 100 people came to watch the sweeping up ceremony.

That winter, David went to Newport, Oregon, working his barista trade.  He first saw Lou from his station at the espresso machine, when she came in as a customer regularly, visiting with her classmates from Oregon State University.  She had a kayak on top of her car.  David told her if she ever wanted to go kayaking with him, let him know.  So they started kayaking together all along the Oregon coast. They did one long trip up to the head of the Columbia River.  Then Lou went on a trawl survey for a month.  This separation caused the couple to realize that they really missed each other and wanted to be together.  They ended up living together in Newport.

David went with Lou to the Pribilof Islands for the first time as a volunteer the summer of 2010, and worked in a “mark and recapture” program.  Workers would mark the fur seal pups  by cutting a small patch of guard hair off their heads, leaving a white spot.  They marked 10% of the group in this way, then re-released them into the main group.  Then they went back and counted the number of marked pups in groups of 25 to get a population estimate.  Residents helped with the study, with the tribal council selecting the workers.  Northern fur seals are managed by NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service.)

Lou worked as an observer; her job was tagging fur seal pups.  Tags on individual seals allowed them to keep track of the survival rate through the

years.  Observations were done from the cliff tops.  Each year they did a resighting and recounting on both islands, with St. Paul hosting the biggest

group of animals.  They looked for tagged individuals, and noted how many were nursing.  The adults would leave the pups on the beach and go out to feed for a couple of days; then come back to nurse the pups.  From their observations, NMFS could estimate the total population, birth rate each year,  survival at different age classes, and other statistics known as vital rates.

At the end of the summer when the pups were old enough, the team tagged a new generation so they could record their life and movements.  Adult fur seals are only on land to give birth.

After the first year on St. Paul, Dave and Lou went to St. George.  They were in the Pribilofs for five seasons total, four of them on St. George.  They lived on the island where they worked. The people living on St. George were vastly outnumbered by fur seals.  The population was

Village of St. George

recorded as 74, but only about 50 people actually lived there, many of them quite elderly.  The population of St. Paul was recorded as 530 people.

The dense natural environment created by the continental shelf  supports millions of breeding sea birds.  The islands are all tundra. Herds of reindeer  roam free on both islands.

At one time fur seal hunting had to be stopped because of over-harvesting, and for a while a food source went missing for the Native community. The reindeer herds were introduced to provide an additional source of food.  Since then, subsistence fur seal hunting is again permitted.


The two found it took a couple of years before people started opening up to them.  Native residents were suspicious of new people, especially government workers.  Once they got to know each other, they began making friends.  Others visited — Fish and Wildlife did bird studies; traveling scientists from all over the world visited each year.

Locals halibut fished.  There was no industry and no real place for a garden.  One year David helped build a geodesic greenhouse for the community.  

APICDA (Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association) helped fund the project as a community development activity.  This group takes all the fishing quota allowed for the community in the Bering Sea and then fishes the quota for them.  They also sell the fish, and the money is used for community infrastructure projects.  St. Paul also boasts a Trident Seafood cannery, which caters to crab fishermen.  They come there to deliver, providing another source of revenue for the town.

This experience changed David’s view of Alaska and villages.  He enjoyed learning of the complexities of village life and getting to know a Native culture.  A  bush village does not have the same world view because it is isolated.  The Pribilof villages face many challenges due to

their isolation and lack of employment opportunities. Like many struggling villages in Alaska, the residents are torn between wanting to stay and keeping the communities alive and leaving to find better futures for themselves Outside.

After David’s first time in the Pribilofs with Lou, they returned to Newport, Oregon and married on October 3, 2010. On their honeymoon in Newport, Rhode Island,  David took Lou out sailing to show his expertise.  Their sailboat was a J20 (20-foot J-class sailor.) In no time at all the boat was grounded in the shallows of the very busy waters of Newport Bay.  A bystander on the dock who knew about sailing (and tourists) told them how to get out of the sand.  The sailboat had a weighted keel that was stuck in the sand, so they had to leave the sails open while David hung his body off the shrouds over the water so the boat would lean onto its side. Meanwhile, Lou steered with the jib until it reached deeper water. They narrowly avoided wrecking their rental boat, not to mention the several million dollar yachts moored close by.

David and Lou went to Akaroa, New Zealand, on the Banks Peninsula, for the rest of the winter months.  David found work as a barista at “By the Green” coffee shop, while Lou volunteered for a PhD study on New Zealand fur seals. After that winter, they went back to the Pribilofs for the summer.  Then they went to Juneau, where Lou got a legislative job for the winter.  David spent two winters working at Rainbow Foods.

In the winter of 2013, Lou started working for Jamie Womble, doing aerial surveys for harbor seals in Glacier Bay National Park, and David took Lou’s position at the legislature.  Then in summer, Lou’s contract overlapped the Pribilof Island job so David went alone.  They did one last summer together in the Pribilofs after that, before David started a coffee roastery in Juneau.

David and Lou have done an international trip  almost every year since their marriage.  So far they have visited New Zealand, Greece, Mexico, Belize, and France.  On the year they went to France, they visited a childhood friend of Lou’s, a historian.  She worked for a private tour company in Paris and treated them both to an amazing private tour of the Louvre and many classic neighborhoods around the city.

French town

Cathar Way

The second half of that trip brought them by train to the start of the hiking trail, the “Cathar Way.”  Along the route they found people to be very friendly and interested in someone experiencing their area by foot.  They saw compact towns surrounded by agricultural fields.  David says this arrangement, as opposed to the US model of wide open spaces and distant farmhouses, made the area a lot more “villagesque.”  In the photo is a picture of a windmill that is attached to a bakery, which grinds its own spelt flour.


In 2013 they traveled to Belize, going first to the coast and then exploring a bit of the interior.  They first stayed at Grover’s Atoll.  They arrived late and missed their water taxi, and had to hire a man with a skiff to take them there, about a 90-minute trip across open ocean, guided by only a compass.  They stayed in a grass-covered hut and rented kayaks.  They were there for about two weeks.

While there, they decided to see how many coconuts they could eat in a day without getting sick.  Lou holds the record, as she ate six coconuts and never got sick, but David gave up after two.

Every day the owners of the island would go out to fish, then bring their catch into town to sell.  They made sure David and Lou had a share; they ate fish every night they were there.

Mayan ruin

On their travels, they saw many ruins.  Here is a Mayan ruin they saw when they explored inland.

David says that Belize is an interesting mix — a true melting pot of cultures, even more so than here.  The population ranged from African natives to English colonists, and the country hosted lots of visitors.  He remarks that he did not see any racism at all — folks, though all mixed together, were tolerant of each other.

David’s coffee comes from all over the world, depending on the importer.  All are traceable to a farm source, listed with the Fair Trade Coop.  Thus he can tell exactly where his coffee was grown.

Coffee is part of a rich, world-wide tradition.  It is the second most traded commodity in the world.  It has a long history — like food, it brings people together, because the majority of people use the product.  Coffee houses become gathering places.  A lot of revolutions have been hatched in coffee houses.

Now we in Gustavus are privileged to enjoy all the extra goodness David adds to our lives.  Try his coffee, tea, and chocolate sauce.  Enjoy a foreign film presentation.  Look in the newspaper to learn when to bring your dish to a “slow food” night.  You will get a sample of David’s yummy cooking while there.  When you see David, tell him “thank you” for moving to Gustavus.