Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Loving Memory


My father, Bernhart Michael (Ben) Savikko, has passed away at the age of 93 in Douglas, Alaska.

I am blessed to have been the firstborn of 5 children (and only daughter) born to my Alaskan pioneer father, and Cajun French mother, who now survives him.

My father was an avid outdoorsman, a talented craftsman, artist, photographer, writer and electrician, who worked for the Alaska Light and Power Company in Juneau, Alaska. My father was introduced to my mother (long distance) while he attended the University of Washington, when she became his Louisianan penpal. He traveled to Louisiana during World War II to meet her, where he promptly fell deeply in love.

They were married on April 9,1949 and I was born 9 months later. My father washed my diapers on a scrubbing board and hung them out to dry in my French grandmother's clothes line, completely amazing her with both his love and adoration of my mother and myself, but his total willingness to do hard work of all kinds.

Their first three of 5 children were born and raised in St. Martinsville and in New Orleans, Louisiana, where my father continued his college education at Tulane University. We moved our family by traveling with our tiny house trailor pulled by our family car up the Alcan (Alaska-Canadian) highway to Haines, Alaska, where we then were put on a ferry, to travel to Juneau and then across the Gastineau Channel to our island home in Douglas.

We were blessed to grow up on this beautiful island surrounded by water, mountains and fern-filled forests and to learn to be self-reliant, independent, and hard working .... and to never give up no matter what challenges life might give us...from this strong-willed Finnish father and our beautiful French mother.

My two youngest brothers were lucky enough to be both born and raised in Douglas and my father to have passed away, knowing that he was the oldest surviving resident to have been born and raised on the island of Douglas.

My father leaves behind not only that he taught and gave to us...rich memories bound to the deepest love of family, tradition, integrity and loyalty ,but he leaves his five children, their spouses, 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grand children.

We were amazingly blessed to not only have had this wonderful man in our lives for so many years, but to have learned that if he could survived traveling with young children 5 thousands miles back and forth to Louisiana, raising a family in a U.S. territory, hunting and fishing to supply us with food, loving playing with us beyond what men of his generation did with their children, teaching us, loving us, and showing us that we could survive anything. That major illnesses, having our home burned to the ground with family members asleep, one son in a body cast, two more tossed from burning windows by my father, my mother in a nightgown running for help, and all of us surviving so much over our lifetimes.

My father's final years of his life included caring for my mother through stage 3b breast cancer in my home in Oregon and having her survive against all odds 9 months later, caring for her as she was stricken with Alzheimer's 5 years later, waiting on her with complete and total dedication for his five final years and loving her so deeply that is by the far the greatest gift this dear man could ever have left us with.

We will treasure forever all that he taught and gave to us and hold him and have him live everlastingly in our hearts.

XXXOOO
Michele
Douglas Island, Alaska

51 comments:

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your father..

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  2. What a great tribute. Thank you for sharing it with us. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  3. What an awesome memorial and tribute to your father. I'm sorry for your loss and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Its so beautiful the legacy of love he left for you.

    Jennifer
    Feathers in the Nest

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  4. Thanks for sharing about your father. It sounds like he lived an amazing life.

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  5. What an amazing man your father was...thank you so much for sharing this piece of your heart with us.
    so sorry for your loss, I pray your Mother will be strengthened by her children and find comfort and oeace.
    hugs
    Amanda

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  6. What a wonderful man and you've written so beautifully about him. He mus have loved you all very much and you in return loved him too. What more could anyone ask!

    God Bless

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  7. Beautiful in honoring your father's life! Sending prayers and hugs!

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  8. So Sorry to hear the news. a very touching post... Sending support, and sympathy.

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  9. My heartfelt sympathy to you and your entire family, your post is such a loving and beautiful tribute. I will pray for God to strengthen, sustain and support you with His great love through these difficult days ahead.

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  10. Michele you have my love and prayers. You are a great daughter, I can tell you love/d and are loved very much by them.

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  11. What wonderful homage to pay such a loved man. It's so difficult to lose a parent. You have wonderful memories... In sympathy, Linda

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  12. May your father rest in peace after a wonderful life. Thank you for sharing this inspiring tribute which gives courage as the rest of us go thru life's issues. You have been thru alot. TBTG for sewing and giving to others.

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  13. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man, Michelle. (((Hugs)))

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  14. Michelle, your father sounds like a real gem of a man! What an interesting life. Blessings to you and your family as you lay him to rest.

    Love, Karen

    P.S. Your Mom must be an amazing and blessed woman to have been through so much. I didn't realize that she was a breast cancer survivor.

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  15. So sorry for your loss Michelle. You and your family will be in are in my prayers. L,A-

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  16. Hugs and blessings to your family . . . should every daughter be so fortunate to have a father like yours.

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  17. I am sorry for your loss, what a wonderful person he was.

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  18. What wonderful memories you have. I lost my father 2 fathers day ago and I still feel the pain. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  19. Michele. I am so sorry for your loss...Such a beautiful tribute! Blessings and prayers sent your way.

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  20. I am so sorry for your loss Michele. What a wonderful tribute.

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  21. Your father sounds like a wonderful man. I'm sorry for your loss. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Take good care.

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  22. Sadly God bless!
    Hugs - Lurline♥

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  23. You are in my thoughts and prayers. So sorry for your loss.

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  24. I'm so sorry you've lost your father. I know you were close. You're all in my prayers. *hugs*

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  25. Thank you for sharing this profoundly private tribute with us. As always, you touch my heart. I am keeping you and your family in my prayers. I'm so sorry for your loss, and so glad that yours are beautiful memories.

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  26. My condolances on losing your father. The tribute to your father brought tears to my eyes. Saying a prayer for your entire family.

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  27. What a precious tribute to a wonderful man. My condolances. Hugs

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  28. Michele,
    Such a moving tribute to your dad. What a wonderful man he was and what a rich and wonderful heritage he gave each of you.
    Mu condolences to all of you. Give your mom an extra hug from me tonight.
    Hugs, Barb

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  29. We only girls do LOVE our FATHERS, sorry for your loss but memories live on!

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  30. Thank you so much for sharing such a lovely and loving tribute to your father. He sounds like an amazing man!

    My thoughts are with you and your family in your grief. ((Hugs)) It's never easy to lose a parent.

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  31. I am deeply sorry for your loss, but I know that you have many memories of your remarkable father and a rich heritage to treasure.

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  32. A very beautiful and moving tribute to your father, Michele. My deepest sympathy for your loss. Nothing about it is easy. To ultimately reach the stage of acceptance and peace is my heart's wish for you and yours. God's richest blessings on your journey and mission. Hugs, Finn

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  33. My dear Michele, This is a beautiful post to a well loved man. I am so sorry for your family's loss.
    Sending you warm thoughts and a big cyber hug. May you find yourself surrounded by the loving support of friends and family as you remember and honor your beloved father. My sincere condolences to you all.
    Warmest regards,
    Anna

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  34. What a beautiful soul! How blessed all of you are to have him in your life. My sincerest sympathy and heart-felt hugs. Angie

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  35. Whath a beautiful heritage you have. Prayers are with you at this time.

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  36. You just celebrated his life in that loving tribute. My condolences to you and the rest of your family.

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  37. Anonymous6:57 AM

    I am crying for you. Beautiful post.

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  38. So beautifully written Michele. What a fascinating history, and wonderful heritage! Wishing you peace and many blessings.

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  39. Anonymous11:47 AM

    My wish is to be loved by our children the way you loved yours! Makes me want to buy a truck and trailer and move to Alaska..Angie

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  40. You were blessed to have such an incredible father. He sounds like he was truly amazing and wonderful. He lived a very full life.

    Thank you for sharing such great memories with us at such a sad time.

    Condolences to you and your whole family.

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  41. Anonymous8:24 AM

    I am so sorry for your loss, and so touched by all you've gained from your loving parents.

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  42. thanks for being so kind to share those links for free patterns, a hug from Venezuela

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  43. my thoughts are with you.

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  44. Oh Michele, I'm sorry I'm late to learn about your father's passing. My condolences... but what a wonderful legacy he left behind. Warmest wishes to you and the rest of your clan.

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  45. Perfectly said.
    How blessed you have been.
    Your memories will carry you up and over. God Bless~
    ♥ Eileen

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  46. Thank you for sharing your lovely tribute to your amazing father. Isn't it the best growing up with a hero? I'm sorry for your loss.

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  47. Oh, Michele, my heart goes out to you. Your devotion to your parents has permeated all of your posts about them. Losing someone you love so dearly is difficult, even when you can say you were lucky to have had them in your life for so long.

    You've made so clear the kind of man your father was, and I find myself grieving with you and privileged to have been able to read your family stories. From the bayous to the far North, quite an exodus.

    From this Bayou to you, prayers and healing.

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  48. Prayers for you and your family. God Bless.

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  49. Anonymous8:26 AM

    Thank your so much for the beautiful letter you wrote me. It helped so much. Prayers for you and your family.

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  50. Minniesthtches3:06 PM

    Michelle I am so sorry for your loss of your father. Daughters and fathers have a special bond, cherrish your memories in the days to come. Please know that my thoughts are with you.

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  51. So sorry about your father. I haven't been blogging much this past year and have finally started trying to catch up with everyone. Your postng on his life was very touching. And I am glad to hear your mother is doing as well as can be expected.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.