Columns 2017

Dan Fauske

The first Fauske I ever met was Dave Fauske, Dan’s brother. Met him and his wife Betty on my first night in Barrow. The second Fauske I met was Dan. Both brothers approached the world as though everyone was a potential friend and almost everyone I know responded back in kind.

Dan died last week. He left us much too early. Yet he still managed to leave a rather impressive legacy. He spent years as the Finance Director of the North Slope Borough, years as the head of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and then headed up the gas line project. He was a big presence in a big state and left his mark on everyone and everything he touched.

But for me, one memory above all others stands out and it has nothing to do with his work or reputation or financial acumen. Because before all that, Dan came up to Barrow to work in a more mundane job that involved construction. Which is to say, Dan knew how to use tools.

So one day, long after Dan had left his blue-collar work behind him and toiled in a suit behind a desk, he showed up on a Sunday afternoon at the house I’d just built in Barrow. I had a dog named Lovey who was pushing 17 and not getting around as well as she had in her youth. She had difficulty navigating the five or six stairs that got her from her yard back into the house. So I’d asked a friend, Harris, to come over and build a handicapped ramp for Lovey. Dan was at my house to pick up Harris for some activity they’d planned after the ramp was done.

Dan came in and filled my living room as only Dan could. You were not really alive if you weren’t smiling and laughing when he visited. He was great company. He’d brought some liquid libation with him knowing there was none in my house. He sipped and we talked while Harris went into the garage to build the ramp.

Fifteen minutes passed. Then thirty minutes passed. It was going on forty-five minutes when Dan asked why he wasn’t hearing any hammering coming from the garage. I had no idea. Dan and I got up and went out to the garage to find Harris standing in front of some wood with a piece of paper with some numbers on it and a measuring tape. He was carefully measuring everything twice – how far apart the slats would be, how wide the ramp would be, how big the slats would be, where the nails should go. He had quite a production going for something I’d envisioned as simply a way for my handicapped dog to get up and down the stairs.

Dan was one of those guys that liked to get things done. He apparently was also one of those guys who didn’t feel a need to measure much of anything if you were building a dog ramp. Now I’m not saying that the libations he’d indulged in while waiting for Harris to finish had anything to do with this, but one minute I was looking at some boards on the floor and the next I was looking at a completed ramp. He’d seen what Harris was doing, muttered under his breath, grabbed the tools and voila! I had a ramp for Lovey. Maybe not all the slats were exactly the same size or spaced exactly apart but it was as functional as you could want a ramp to be.

People in this state knew Dan Fauske for a lot of reasons, most for his professional life. But I really didn’t know much about that. I knew his titles. I knew they were important. I knew he wielded power, though I would have never known it from just talking to him. He wasn’t the kind of guy that threw his weight around that way. He was always for me, just Dan, the guy who built a ramp for my handicapped dog. He was funny, kind, gregarious and filled any room he entered.

I didn’t see much of Dan after we both moved to Anchorage. But when I did, the Lovey ramp story was always on the agenda and when he laughed as he told it, you couldn’t help but laugh with him. Alaska lost a good man last week. I will miss knowing he’s in our world.