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 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.

Douglas Island, Alaska