First published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 8, 2023, by managing editor Hank Nuwer

I am writing exactly one year after my wife and I visited our acreage in Tok and vacationed in Fairbanks, Sitka, King Salmon and Kodiak before returning to home on the Indiana-Ohio state line. Our dream of living in Alaska full-time seemed impossible. Now here we are.

However, the newborn spring brings heartbreak with the deaths of three soldiers from Fort Wainwright killed in a tragic helicopter crash far from their homes in New York, Colorado and Utah. Their names are Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle McKenna, and Warrant Officer Stewart Wayment. It seems impossible to digest that they’ll never be back in this life. We grieve with their kin.

One soldier survived. Oh, that all might have lived.

No words of condolence here can sooth the loss felt by their families and friends, but know we all speak those words anyway in our hearts. As a new, transferred member of the Sons of the American Legion (Fairbanks Post), and as a son of a veteran who drove a Sherman tank at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, I appreciate how the Fairbanks North Star Borough — indeed, all Alaska —cherishes its military members. Thank you, men and women, for your service.

Those aren’t empty words; they are sacred. At this time, on behalf of my father, I bend a knee in the memory his best friend, killed by a shell, while outside their Sherman tank in Europe. My dad hated to discuss World War Two. “At least he never heard the one that got him” was all he would tell me about his friend and his four-year absence from the farm while fighting in North Africa, Normandy, the Ardennes, and in victory, Germany.

What’s new?

On Saturday my wife and I began the task of moving from our lovely temporary cabin two miles from Fox into an efficiency apartment in Fairbanks. My landlord, now my friend, is coming back this month from Florida for the summer. We like it that our new landlord keeps berry bushes in the backyard. I can taste the juicy fruit already.

My wife said that opening countless taped boxes shipped here from our Hoosier-Buckeye stateline home is like unwrapping Christmas gifts. I cannot wait to display art pieces like a painted box signed by local artist Myra Jane Holmer and to locate my journal to put down impressions of my five months in Fairbanks.

I will miss this temporary cabin with its stately beams, comfortable furniture, and homey kitchen. I will miss the chickadees and jays outside the picture window who scarf the birdseed and bits of suet I leave out for them. In true anthropomorphic fashion, I’ve nicknamed the jays Frisky and Frosty. I cannot tell them apart even when they each strut on the porch.

Gosia Nuwer and Hank Nuwer; Fairbanks, Alaska

I also love the zigzagging chickadees with their black-capped heads who alight for mere seconds to snatch a few seeds. I wonder if the energy they expend to fly to the porch is worth the few seeds they snatch at a time. A Mr. Peck alights on an exposed nail on an outside log and pecks that nail with the intensity of a woodpecker. (In fact, he or she is pecking away as I write this Saturday at 6 a.m.).

I even will miss the two squirrels who showed up only in late April to steal the seeds I put out for the birds. I’ve named them Nasty and Nastier. They do not get along and work overtime from preventing one another to claim tasty booty. They are bold little critters and peep into the picture window to satisfy their curious natures.

I only have two updates as I continue the long, sometimes frustrating attempt to lose a little cheechako en route to no doubt far-off sourdough status. I’ll get my Chevy van back on Monday (today — yay!) from the repair shop. I’ve now officially spent more on post-Alcan Highway repairs then when I bought the van for $6,000 in 2022. No matter. It beats paying monthly interest payments to a bank. Besides, the van is big and roomy, and we have guests coming from Indiana, England, Poland and Malaysia to see Alaska. Ha, ha, wonder why nobody came to see us when we lived in the Midwest!

Two, the scam artist who absconded with over two grand from Gosia and me for a rental property in North Pole he did not own has put the place up for rent again on Craigslist. He calls himself Brian, and he continues to write my wife and me from a throwaway phone to try to squeeze more information out of us. Potential renters, beware of Craigslist listings and insist on a face-to-face showing of all rentals. Beware of all rentals whose monthly rent seems too good to be true.

Oh, oh, my wife Gosia is tapping her toes on the floor. She thinks I’m burning daylight here at my computer. Time to load the Jeep with boxes.

I dedicate the last lines of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam A.H.H.” to those who last week shuddered under sudden bad news and nursed their hearts now broken.

I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost; Than never to have loved at all.

First published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 8, 2023