Midnight Sun Masters

Get to know our Midnight Sun Masters!

Multi-talented, adept at many things, here are a few of their mini-autobiographies: 



Dale Sellin


© Dale Sellin

© Dale Sellin

Northwest Airlines transferred Dad to Anchorage and the family later joined him in September, 1950. All fall, we lived in a nice couple’s finished attic space at 6th and G. Soon we moved to a “Northwest” house at 11th and L St.  A row of those houses is still there. On June 21, 1951, Mom said I could stay up late to watch her prove she could read a newspaper outside unaided at midnight.

In the summer of 1953, Mt. Spurr erupted. It became dark as night at midday; I still have some ash I collected from our front lawn.

I attended the excellent Anchorage schools, graduating from AHS in 1960. While I labored as a student, my father was an active member of the “Committee of 100,” raising funds to build Alaska Methodist College in East Anchorage. Thus I was predisposed to register to attend there, by chance becoming the first student to do so. I graduated from the new University in 1964.

My then-wife Nancy Trombley and I joined the Peace Corps in 1965. After sojourns in West Africa, Tacoma, and New York City, I married Jo-Li Chiang, of Taiwan, in ’74 and we moved to Seattle mere months later – for ten years.

Dale and Jo-Li. © Dale Sellin

Dale and Jo-Li. © Dale Sellin

In the heart of a tourism career, I frequently visited Anchorage on business. With each arrival, I would immediately head for a creek to baptize my hands in the flowing water of MY city.  I finally returned to Anchorage (yay!) to live in 1985, still in the travel business.

While Jo-Li happily toiled in the verdant NBA/Wells Fargo financial fields, I (we) owned and successfully operated (1989 – 2009) the Scandia Down Shop, closing it when I retired.

In 2013, we moved to gentler climes, and now shuttle between a Seattle condo (right on a golf course!) and a home  (right on a golf course!) at Dove Mountain in Tucson. In sum, I lived and thrived in beautiful Anchorage for 42 of my 72 years, and reflect often and fondly that I am most fortunate to have been a “pioneer.”

Anchorage was “beautiful” in my youth (and adulthood!) because of the happy circumstance of an existing symphony orchestra (in which my father played violin), a concert association,  and a community chorus. Their rosters were augmented by talented military musicians, fortuitously stationed nearby.

New airline trans-Pacific routes required a (non-military) place to refuel. After 1950, they did so in Anchorage, then “The Air Crossroads of the World.”

Those air passengers hearkened to Alaska’s appeal as a hunting and fishing Mecca. Thus, it was easy to attract world-class musicians to headline festival and concert productions, which pulled in local audiences, my family included. So, following a diet of steady piano lessons, a love for, and appreciation of, fine music, became an important part of my persona.

In addition to the inevitable local piano recitals, I enjoyed accompanying classmates singing and playing in high school. The culmination of this was an invitation in my senior year from Band Director Jack McGuin to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the AHS concert band.

Dale and Jo-Li, © Dale Sellin

Dale and Jo-Li, © Dale Sellin

Piano was not my only instrument. As a freshman, I was gratified as well to be offered appropriate lessons (by Tom Madden, a school music teacher), to qualify me to play tympani in that same band. This joyful participation continued during my four years of college at AMU.

Finally, there was a need at my church for a first-service organist. Once again, I luckily was able to obtain instruction from Royal Norquist, the church’s “regular” organist, and I filled this position for the same four years of college.

When you think about it, these opportunities reflect the “big fish, small pond” effect – another benefit of “pioneering” in the right place at the right time!!



Gene Brown

Gene with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage. Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage. Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage. Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage.Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage.Me with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage. © Gene Brown

Gene with black bear cub in ~1947, Merrill Field, Anchorage. © Gene Brown


In 1946, my father left his job at the Naval Shipyard in Long Beach, CA and moved his family – a wife and four sons – to Anchorage.  I was the youngest, and grew up in the most fascinating place during the most fascinating time: Anchorage in the late 1940s and 1950s.  We lived initially in Spenard in a barn that we converted into a four-room house. In the summer of 1947, at the age of five and the only one who could fit under the barn, I dug the well under this barn so we’d have water. In that same year, my parents bought the flying school that was at the northwest corner of Merrill Field, and my adventure with, and lifelong love of, small airplanes began.There are no better memories for me than being in a Super Cub and flying over Turnagain Arm. In 1949, the family moved to Seward where my parents became the Boys Dorm houseparents for the Methodist Church-run Jesse Lee Home. Upon our return to Anchorage in 1950 we settled into a ‘normal’ life, and I spent that decade camping, hiking, racing dog teams, climbing mountains in the

Gene Brown playing with the Yokosuka, Japan, base band. Feb. 1966. © Gene Brown

Gene Brown playing with the Yokosuka, Japan, base band. Feb. 1966. © Gene Brown

Chugach Range, helping my folks operate Browns Piano Company on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage and in Fairbanks, and playing trumpet in the Anchorage High School band as well as being principal trumpet of the Anchorage Little Symphony.  Upon my graduation from high school in May, 1960, I left for college in Oklahoma on a full music scholarship, not knowing that I would never again live in my hometown.

Intent on staying with music, I joined the Navy music program in 1961 and spent the next seven years as a lead trumpet instrumentalist in several Navy unit bands: aboard the 7th Fleet flagship USS Providence; at Pier 91 in Seattle, Washington; and at the Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan.  Upon leaving the service, I attended college at night, taking a degree in Finance.  This led to work in lending and small business management in California and Washington.  After a very full life that included a lot of fun writing projects, I retired from banking in 2006.

Gene playing with the jazz orchestra MOJO in Woodinville, WA 2011. © Gene Brown.

Gene playing with the jazz orchestra MOJO in Woodinville, WA 2011. © Gene Brown.

Several years later I decided to finish the historical novel I had begun in the early 1990s and soon published Asano No Katana (Sword of Asano) in early 2015.

But despite all of my travel and experiences, some fifty-five years after leaving that idyllic place known as Anchorage, I still consider it home, as that is where my heart has been all these years.




Jan Harper Haines


Jan Harper-Haines

Jan Harper Haines

Jan Harper Haines was born in Sitka, Alaska and is Koyukon Athabascan, and Dutch/German. In 1990 she began gathering stories about her Athabascan mother and grandmother and their lives on the Yukon River. Her first book, COLD RIVER SPIRITS, first published in 2000 with a new edition in 2012, grew from those early stories.

Her non-fiction short stories have appeared in literary magazines, including the 2010 edition of West Marin Review, with the publication of Hootlani! Her essay, Triumph to Tragedy, about her famous ancestor, Walter Harper appeared in the First Alaskans Magazine, June-July, 2013 issue and in 2014 under the title A Man and a Mountain in Northfield Mount Hermon Magazine.

Jan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where her mother, Flora Jane Harper, was the University’s first Alaska Native woman graduate in 1935.

Jan went on to teach at Orion Junior High on Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, followed by a twenty-year career in advertising/marketing in Honolulu and San Francisco. She is a member of the Alaska Native Corporations, Doyon and Baan O Yeel Kon and Cook Inlet Region, Inc. and Sisters In Crime.


Jan Balcony

Jan in Cannes

Jan in Cannes


Jan lives in Marin County, Northern California with her husband, Larry, an architect. She contributes regularly to growingupanchorage.com  and is at work on a two novellas set in the 49th state and an Anthology of Alaska Native Writers.     Harperhaines@comcast.net


Jana Ariane Nelson


Dad accepted a job with the Bureau of Land Management and arrived in Anchorage in August of 1948.  Mom, my twin brother, Jack, and I arrived in Anchorage from Portland in mid November. It was raining and three days later it snowed and the temperature fell to 30 below. Jack and I enrolled in first grade in the Quonset Huts downtown.  Anchorage had a population of about 15,000 and only a few blocks of 4th Avenue were paved; Spenard was in the “boondocks.”  Housing was hard to come by and Dad had purchased a cold, unfinished shell of a house in Woodland Park. 

Jack, Susan, Jana, 1949. © Jana Ariane Nelson

Jack, Susan, Jana, 1949. © Jana Ariane Nelson

Despite the first winter of frozen water lines and no indoor plumbing, a steamship strike that held up needed household items, frequent outages of electricity due to generator troubles, lots of doing without and my bout with pneumonia, it became clear that we all loved Alaska dearly and considered ourselves permanent residents. 

Mom became the school secretary for Glenn Norton at North Star Elementary and later renewed her teaching certificate, teaching and counseling at West Anchorage High. Dad worked for both Federal and State governments.  I loved Anchorage during Territorial Days.  It was the Frontier and we relished it!

Jana.ALBUMI left Anchorage in the mid 80’s, after the tragic accident that claimed the life of my middle child, David.  Anchorage is still “home,” however, partially because my youngest son and daughter, grandchildren and great-grandson still live there.

I live in Eugene, Oregon with my dear husband, Danny, and a number of furry children who really think they are my children!  (I don’t tell them any differently!)  In my spare time away from Growing Up Anchorage duties, I enjoy ballet and jazz dancing, Qigong, gardening, genealogy, and playing with several doll houses I’ve furnished over the years.

A few years ago I created GrowingUpAnchorage.com dedicated to preserving authentic stories of those early decades.  Since then other wonderful writers have joined me. It has become a cooperative endeavor and reconnected me not only with friends, but with the Anchorage I loved and cherished.   I SO appreciate you all! 

I am intent on living life to the fullest, being present every moment and continuing to write, play, dance, and reconnect with friends near and far.

The bunch of us, Dec, 2014. © Danny Gray Czarnecki

The bunch of us, Dec, 2014. © Danny Gray Czarnecki



Louis J. Garcia


 Louis J. Garcia, 1950's. Ward W. Wells, Photographer. Anchorage, Alaska

Louis J. Garcia, 1950’s. Ward W. Wells, Photographer. Anchorage, Alaska

The first ten years of my life were enriched by watching my mother rehearse and perform throughout her exciting show business career as a singer-dancer-actress.  SHE LOVED IT! Little did I know during those shy years that one day the knowledge I learned, from watching mom’s rehearsals and performances, would serve me well many years later. Now that I’m retired from show business, I too can proudly say I LOVED IT!

I was born in Matanzas, Cuba, and my parents moved to the capital city of La Habana in the province of Havana when I was three months old.

My Cuban father passed away when I very young and years later our lives changed when mom, sis and I moved, on February 11, 1950, to Tampa, Florida, to join my second father who was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.  Being very shy and not knowing the English language made this a difficult time for me and during our school recess periods I would go to a corner in the patio and entertain myself by singing songs in Spanish.  Mind you, even though I had been around the world of show business, I had never performed in front of anyone, not even at home.

Through loving and caring parents and the wonderful teachers at Madison Junior High School, within six months I was able to communicate with my school mates.  From then on my life in the good old U.S.A. became a fabulous and glorious experience.  Our band teacher, Marie E. Schlichter, encouraged me to learn to play the drums as well as to twirl the baton. Another teacher, Virgina LaBrot, who had heard me sing during recess periods, inspired me to perform in a school variety show.  When the performance ended, a gentleman who had been in the audience came backstage and told me he liked my performance and wanted to hire me to sing in his professional Saturday Radio Shows.  This led to many other performances throughout the Tampa area and my show biz career was off and running.

On October 1954, our military family was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and I immediately thought my show biz career was coming to an end.

Well, thanks to our remarkable teachers at Anchorage High School and other talented individuals in Anchorage, Alaska, my musical career got better and better. Cora Horton, Choir Instructor; Jack McGuin, Band Instructor; Al Aleco, Air Force Drums Specialist; Dance Teachers-Choreographers Margaret Webber and Linda Lorimer are individuals who played very important roles in our lives and we are grateful to them for their devotion to teaching and inspiring us to quest for our dreams.

At the Elmendorf Air Force Base, every year a talent contest was held but only enlisted personnel could participate.  However, my talented sister and I were very lucky because in 1958 the talent contest became available to family members.  I am very happy to say sister won Best Female vocalist, I won Best Male Vocalist with my rendition of All The Way. Another Anchorage High School student, Jerry Razz, played the accordion and won Best Instrumental Soloist.  All the winners enjoyed the opportunity to perform together throughout Alaska at many military bases.

Barbara Foote, Louis and his mother, June 24, 1958 Citizenship Ceremony. © Louis J. Garcia

Barbara Foote, Louis and his mother, June 24, 1958 Citizenship Ceremony. © Louis J. Garcia

One of the most exciting days in my life was June 24, 1958. My mom and Barbara Foote were there to share with me the moment when I proudly became a United States of America Citizen.  I still get chills thinking about it.  I love our country. Today when someone refers to me as a Cuban-American I reply “I’m an American, period.”

At our annual Alaska High School Music Festival, Justin Gray and Lloyd Oakland, from the music department at Montana State University, were there to judge our talents.  They offered me music scholarships to MSU and the position of drum major of the MSU Treasure State Band.  I took this to be a good omen, since our dear Band Instructor, Mr. McGuin, had been the first MSU student in his freshman year to serve in this position.  To follow his footsteps was a great honor for me.

My years at MSU prepared me even more for my show business career with Mr. John Lester, our vocal teacher, who taught me the art of singing, our ballet teacher, Marnie Cooper, who turned me into a real dancer, and Joe Musselman who directed the singing group Jubileers and introduced us to a wide variety of styles of music and gave us many opportunities to perform.  During my college years, I enlisted with the United States Naval Reserve in Missoula, Montana.

In 1959, I was asked to sing A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody at the Miss MSU Pageant, a local preliminary to Miss America.  The following year I served as Production Director-Choreographer for the Miss MSU Pageant and continued to serve in that position until my graduation.

After graduating from MSU, I proudly served two years of active duty in the U.S. Navy in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was chosen to represent our base in the Tenth Naval District Variety Contest and won.  From this contest I was assigned to be the featured vocalist with the U.S. Navy Steel Band. We traveled throughout the Caribbean and the U.S.A. as ambassadors for the U.S.  Navy and visited hospitals where we talked with wounded Vietnam military personnel.

Two months before the end of my two years of active duty, I had the opportunity to audition in New York City for a professional summer stock company.  When I got there I was told that I would be the next person to audition. I asked if I could change from my U.S. Navy uniform into a suit and was told there was no time for me to change. So, I went in and sang my song in my Navy uniform and when I finished my audition I heard one of the directors say loudly “My God, it’s just like a Gene Kelly movie.” That director/choreographer was Bob Hergert and he hired me many times throughout my years in New York City.

Louis in Broadway, 1969, Zorba The Greek. Photo by Leo Freidman who was the official Broadway Photographer for many years.

Louis in the Broadway musical “Zorba” 1969.  Photo by Leo Freidman who was the official Broadway Photographer for many years.

The competition on Broadway is fierce and a person has to dedicate everything to being the best that he or she can be.  I relished every second of classes in voice, ballet, jazz, modern, gym, and swimming. Voice teacher, Seymour Osborne; Ballet teacher, Nenette Charisse; Jazz teacher, Matt Mattox and many others, along with all the teachers I have already mentioned throughout my life, made me into a Broadway performer.  I THANK YOU!  Without you in my life, I would not have been able to make it in show business.

I have enjoyed an incredibly exciting and rewarding show business career, which has taken me to Broadway in the shows Illya Darling with Melina Mercouri and Zorba directed by Harold Prince; television credits include The Ed Sullivan Show, the 1969 Tony Awards, CBS Special I’m a Fan with Dick Van Dyke and Carol Channing, The Merv Griffin Show with my singing partner Gary Oakes. Summer stock productions include West Side Story with Anna Maria Alberghetti and Christopher Walken, Gypsy with Ann Sothern, Milk & Honey with Molly Picon, Half A Sixpence with Leslie Gore, The King and I  with Jane Morgan, Oklahoma and Can Can. The Pre-Broadway tour of the musical W.C., based on the life of W.C. Fields, gave me the opportunity to work with Mickey Rooney and Bernadette Peters.

The dream to work in Las Vegas came true in 1970 in the musical Mame starring Juliet Prowse at the International Hotel.  In 1973, I returned to Las Vegas along with my singing partner Gary Oakes and we were featured in the multi-million dollar extravaganza Hallelujah Hollywood at the MGM Grand Hotel directed by the master of spectaculars, Donn Arden.

In 1978, the Miss Las Vegas Pageant hired me to be their Production Director-Choreographer and months later I became the Production Director-Choreographer for the Miss Nevada Pageant until 1991 and from 1994 to 1998.  I served as Production Director for the Miss California Pageant in 1996 and 1997. In 2006 the Miss America Pageant moved to Las Vegas and I was hired to direct and stage Miss America on the Runway featuring the 2006 Miss America contestants and Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs.

Compliments of Louis J. Garcia, 2012.

Louis in Las Vegas, 2012.  Photo by Erwin Flacks.

Nightclub work has taken me throughout the U.S.A. and performances on cruise ships have taken me around the world.  I feel so blessed, that it was easy to make the decision to retire in 2013.  I wanted to stop while my voice was still in good condition and my body could still dance.  It is comforting to know when it is time to get off the stage.

I am so grateful to all the individuals, throughout my life who believed and encouraged me to pursue my dream of a show business career. Today, I give my time freely to individuals who need assistance and I call that “doing God’s work.”  I find this very fulfilling and rewarding.

I wish you and your loved ones good health, much love, respect and being there for each other at all times.

Life is about sharing.



Louis J. Garcia

Proud and humbled to have served as

Anchorage High School Student Body President 1956-57


(Note from Jana:   My daughter, Naomi, in closing her weekly Rotary e-club meeting in Anchorage the week of March 20, 2015.  Her topic that week was Growing Up Anchorage, of course!)



Melanie Lynch


© Melanie Lynch

© Melanie Lynch


My parents moved to Anchorage in 1948.  Dad worked at the Alaska Railroad as a Diesel Locomotive Machinist and mom took care of kids, us and other kids in the neighborhood. They started off living in a Quonset hut, as did most Government Hill families. My folks later built a house on the same property.  Many of the families were also employed by the railroad, so it was a tight-knit community.  The Anchorage Square and Round Dance Club started its life off as the Alaska Railroad Employees’ Club.  I was too young to remember the festivities, but do remember the building standing empty for years until it was rejuvenated by the dance folks.

I lived on Government Hill until mid-1980. I married and moved all the way over to south Anchorage. My husband and I lived on Loc Loman Lane with our two children for 14 years. Between then and now, I’ve divorced, remarried my wonderful Kevin, and moved over to West Anchorage. Not exactly a world traveler, am I?

I should probably say something about my writing habit. Before I was 9 years old, I had two sisters. My oldest sister was 18 when I was born. My sister closest to me in age was 14 at the time of my birth. It is an irony of life that we believe death is for the end of a long life. Anything shorter than that is considered a devastating breach of that belief. My oldest sister died when I was nine years old. I could not comprehend the borders of my grief. I simply did not have anything in my emotional toolset to cope. My other sister, who by then had finished a degree in psychiatric nursing and was a poet and artist in her own right, sat down with me. She gave me a journal and a pencil. She asked me to write a letter to my sister Judy. I don’t remember if I was able to write that letter, but I do remember a sense of direction and calm sitting there with my sister and having a sense that I was doing something that would help.

Four years later, Marilyn died. She was 27 and I had just turned 13. By then, I wrote in my little journal regularly and had added sketching to my small set of coping tools. I disappeared into my books for the next two years. I added drawing, painting, skiing, hiking, and biking to the tool set. By the time I was 20, I was a regular Henry David Thoreau wanna be.

Ironically, I never thought about writing as a career, but wanted to be a Biologist. That fell through. I loved the Biology courses…all two of them, but panicked at the thought of having to work my way through trigonometry up through Calculus for the Sciences! I did finish a degree in English, but did it while working full time and single parenting. It took a while. I graduated the May before I turned 50! I’m 54 and am just starting to expand my writing from Technical to Creative writing. My employer is grateful that, so far, I have managed to keep them separate. An engineering document probably shouldn’t have too much creativity between the project scope bullet points and the cost estimates.

Melanie & Kevin, © M. Lynch

Melanie & Kevin, © M. Lynch


About my mom: She still lives in her little house on the hill until the Knik Arm Bridge project forces her out.  She is the strongest woman I’ve ever met in my life. And, one hell of a good storyteller! Maybe, someday, I’ll fit into those footprints.


I still live in West Anchorage living each day of my normal with occasional excursions out to visit sunshine and see what someone else’s normal might be like. My wonderful Kevin and I venture to the mountains as often as possible.


Mike Gordon


Mike and his mother, Ruth Gordon. © Mike Gordon

Mike and his mother, Ruth Gordon. © Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon was born on November 23, 1942 in Fort Pierce, Florida and moved to Alaska with his family in June, 1953. He graduated from Central Junior High School in 1956 and Anchorage High School in 1960, where he played alto saxophone in the band all four years and lettered in ice hockey. After a year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Mike attended the University of San Francisco, where he got married his during his junior year and failed to complete the seventeen credits he needed to graduate.

Mike worked in California as a salesman for New York Life Insurance Company, Hallmark Cards and Gillette Safety Razor Company before returning to Alaska with his five-year-old daughter, Michele, his pregnant wife, Lilla, and a German shepherd in heat in a Volkswagen camper towing a 4 x 6 trailer with everything they owned in it. The first winter back in Anchorage the family lived in a Quonset hut in Muldoon. Mike rejoined New York Life and began looking around for another way to make ends meet.

Copyright belongs exclusively to photographer, Dale Shawgo. Permission is granted by Shawgo to Growing Up Anchorage for non exclusive use only.

Copyright belongs exclusively to photographer, Dale Shawgo. Permission is granted by Shawgo to Growing Up Anchorage for non exclusive use only.

Mike became partners with Johnny Tegstrom and Norman Rokeberg in the Bird House Bar on the Seward Highway. After a year the trio sold the bar and Mike opened an Alaskan-themed bar in Anchorage. Due to a chance meeting with Alaskan raconteur Ruben Gaines during a short-lived career in radio broadcasting, Mike got permission to name his new establishment Chilkoot Charlie’s after the fictional, titan, sourdough reprobate created by Ruben during a long winter in Ketchikan in the 1940s.

Chilkoot Charlie’s, now world famous, is in its forty-fifth year of operation. During those many years Mike has served on the Anchorage City Council, (He is the last surviving member of the last city council.) and the Anchorage Borough Assembly. He served two terms as chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and has served on many boards, including Boy Scouts of America Western Alaska Council, the Repertory Theatre, the Anchorage Opera and the Alaska Mental Health Association.

Mountain Mike. © Mike Gordon

Mountain Mike. © Mike Gordon

Mike has completed fifteen marathons, including the original marathon from Marathon to Athens and the New York Marathon. His best time is 3 hours and 31 minutes. He has summited the highest peak on six of the seven continents and made three attempts on Mt. Everest, reaching 27,500 feet in 1993 at the age of fifty. Mike returned to the University of San Francisco via a directed studies program and completed his seventeen credits, graduating with a bachelor degree in Politics and a minor in Philosophy in 2011. He then went on to graduate with a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from Alaska Pacific University in 2014.

His memoir was Mike’s thesis for his Master’s degree and he hopes to get it published soon. He writes short stories for GrowingUpAnchorage.com, The Anchorage Press and has had a book published for the Homer Library Top Shelf collection titled Sharp, Metal Pointy Things. He has been published by Alaska Public Media, Alaska Pacific University’s Summit magazine and its 2014 publication of Turnagain Currents.

Mike is an Eagle Scout, a licensed pilot, a licensed realtor, a licensed open water diver and loves to downhill ski. He is married to the love of his life, Shelli, has two children, Michele and Michael and seven grandchildren. He lives in Anchorage, Homer and Halibut Cove and still runs the world famous Chilkoot Charlie’s.



Randy James Montbriand


Born and raised in Anchorage (Mt. View), Alaska.  An early but not unexpected event the evening of 16 October 1954.  Not many of our age can claim that.  My mother and father built the house during evenings and on weekends, paycheck-to-paycheck as did my aunts and uncles the same year on other side of our lot;  209 Bunnell Street.


© Randy Montbriand, 1972

Lived in the same house all those years until I left for college.  Our family still lives there and I spend several weeks each year living there while I visit the family.  I attended Williwaw grade school where I met many of you for the first time.  Then Clark Junior High (wow, isn’t it a different school now?) where I met more of you, and on to East High.

I attended ACC for a year until I shifted to the University of Idaho.  Big mistake.  Then back to Anchorage where I worked for the FAA as a draftsman while attending ACC again to fill out my undergraduate requirements.  Finally ended up at the University of Arizona, Tucson where I double majored in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.  I graduated in 1976 then returned to Anchorage.

I worked for the State of Alaska as a research analyst/planner, where I gained most of my experience as an editor and writer, for three years then went to work for VECO ending up as manager of technical services.  I actually worked on the North Slope for several months while with VECO.  I bought a house in Nunaka Valley and settled down thinking I was in my element and set for life.

Boy was I wrong.  I decided to return to school for a Masters in Landscape Architecture.  That’s the career (design) I wanted to do but I wasn’t doing it.   University of Washington, Seattle.  It was a so-so effort and, looking back, probably not necessary.  Long, tedious effort that took three years to accomplish primarily because the faculty had no idea what to do with me.


© Randy Montbriand, 1985

But, I came away knowing what I intended to do for the rest of my life; design.  So, in 1985, during one of the worst economic climates every experienced in Alaska since Statehood, I set out to re-establish my life.  I worked for TRA-Farr as a landscape architect from 1986 until the economy in Alaska really crashed in 1987.  I did contract design work after that in Anchorage but then realized I wouldn’t be able to practice my profession if I remained in Alaska.

I received several job offers from firms on the East Coast in the fall and winter of 1987.  I accepted one at Roger Wells, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA.  I really wanted a job in NYC but every time one was offered, I had to turn it down for one reason or another.  My three years in the ‘big’ city of Seattle had not prepared me for Philadelphia.  I had moved to a different country.  Wow was it a different country.  I lived on the 24th floor of a 44 floor tower complex near Rittenhouse Square in downtown Philly, rode the train to work each morning (Haddonfield, NJ), adjusted to the crush of people, did my shopping at the Reading Market, did a lot of walking to learn the city and spent some weekends in New York City.  But, as things turned out, neither Philadelphia nor the job suited me very well.

In 1989, at the request of someone, I ended up in San Francisco, absolutely the last place I ever imagined I would settle.  I found a job with The Guzzardo Partnership (landscape architecture and land planning) where I flourished.  I made associate in 1990, senior associate in 1994, associate principal in 1997 and principal in 2000.  It has been a wonderful career with many projects built, occupied and being used of which I am very proud to say are of my design.  Sun Microsystem campuses in Menlo Park and Santa Clara, the Cisco System campuses in San Jose and Milpitas, many large scale residential projects (condos and apartments) for many loyal clients.  I’ve had a blast over the years.  Frustrated as hell during the construction processes but beaming with pride at the end of the day.  Lots of good, loyal clients who are now friends.  I’ve worked with some of them for over 20 years.

But suddenly, it’s been 25 years since I moved to San Francisco.  Can you believe it?  But I still consider myself an Alaskan.  Most confusing.

I’ve travelled many places in the world from most of Canada and the US, to the UK (England, Scotland, Wales), France, Romania, Australia….  I speak French, Romanian, a smattering of Polish and German, and most of the dialects of the US, some of which are more difficult than Polish.  Australian is a challenge but I manage to understand most of what my Australian family say.

Randy, 1985

© Randy Montbriand, 1995

I continued with my music for those of you who remember.  I bought a grand piano in 1976 that now sits at the family house in Wonder Park.  I played classical for most of my life.  A few ventures into popular music at the request of friends but classical is my element.  I now use a Yamaha Clavinova Modus F11.  Closest thing I can get to a grand piano feel and still be able to live in an apartment in San Francisco.  Headphones are a requirement when practicing passages or doing finger exercises when one lives in an apartment and wishes to remain on reasonable speaking terms with their neighbors.  Current favorite composers are Scriabin and Reger.  I’m working on several of their compositions.

Politics scare the hell out of me.  Sometimes I wonder if I actually grew up in the same generation as some of the people I know.  What happened to the hope and idealism of the early 1970’s?  What’s happening to the country we thought we were changing?  What happened to the passion of the Peace Corps?  I honestly don’t know and it scares me.

I’m assembling a history of Wonder Park, the neighborhood where I spent my life and even now call home and the Mountain View I knew from the 1950’s through 1970’s.  Many of my relatives lived in the area, and even next door as I mentioned.  We knew a Mountain View that wasn’t the scary place it has become.  If any of you lived in Wonder Park and Mountain View, please let me know where and who lived next door to you.  And when I’m mapping out the old neighborhood and how it developed from the first construction in 1951 in Wonder Park when Fireoved lotted out his homestead.  Drop me a line if you would.   And photos.  And memories.



Tom Norton


Tom was a resident of Anchorage from 1949 until 1969 and attended Anchorage schools, studying Biology and Theology in Alaska, Oregon and California.  For five summers he was employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. After moving to Switzerland, Tom continued to study Theology and began to learn German at the Univ. of Bern.  For thirty years he pastored in three Bern churches.  After his early retirement in 2005, he worked in South Korea doing some pastoral work in the mission field and making a 25 min. DVD (English and German) of the mission and the country.

Tom Norton

Tom Norton

During the summer of 2004, Tom attended a five-week Korean summer course at Yonsei Univ. in Seoul.  After this, for a number of years, his work took him to a church in Seoul and one in Mokpo.  He has spoken in many churches and at a number of events throughout S. Korea.  Except for the Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Tom also preached in the largest Reformed Protestant Church in the world, the Myungsung Presbyterian Church also in Seoul, which has about 1,000,000 members.  On the evening he spoke, there were about 3500 in the congregation and the service was televised to another Church with 3000 or 4000 parishioners.  After his retirement and his work in S. Korea ended, Tom has had time to do other things, such as more travel, writing and fitness.

During Tom’s work as a minister, he played much curling including many Swiss and some international tournaments as well as a number of national championships, however he never attained a very high ranking!  In addition, he was president of the Swiss American Society in Bern for six years, thus having many Embassy and other interesting contacts.



One comment

  1. Jim says:

    Holy Makerel, I used to play marbles with Ken in the 6th grade. Some guy named Alvin beat us both and got to play with the champions at Jr. High School (When Jr High School was still in Anchorage)

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