Recently skier and long time
Alaskan resident Lowell Thomas Jr. passed away. Son of
famous pioneering news broadcaster Lowell Thomas Sr., Lowell Jr.
was once the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, operated Talkeetna
Air Taxi for many years, was a world traveler and a
philanthropist. Lowell was a generous supporter of Alaskan
cross country skiing.
I knew Lowell, and his wife
Tay, through their son and daughter. I was roommates with
his son at Dartmouth College, where his daughter also went to
school. All three of use were on the ski team.
Lowell's son once introduced me to a girl that was on the Dimond
High School ski team with him. I've been married to that
girl for over 30 years now. So I owe the Thomas family a
big thanks for that.
When I first moved to Alaska
in 1981, Lowell nabbed me to help him deliver supplies to a
trapper's camp in the Alaska Range, south of Rohn. I flew
out with Lowell, where he dropped me off with a big pile of
boxes and equipment. I would ski to the trapper's cabin,
get the snowmobile there and then ferry the supplies to the
cabin. Meanwhile Lowell would go back to Anchorage and get
the second load. This was my first time in the Alaskan
bush, and I can remember Lowell's words clearly as he got in the
plane to take off. "I'll be back in a few hours. But
this is Alaska, so it could be two weeks."
In the mid-80's Lowell flew
me in to the Kahiltna Glacier for the start of a Mt. McKinley/
Denali climb. After the trip, Lowell flew me out. It
was fun to sit next to Lowell and see the world of his Talkeetna Air Taxi operation.
(Side story) And thanks to Lowell's Talkeetna Air Taxi, I became
a dentist (I'm joking). A climbing trip partner lost a
filling while eating an apple an hour before we were supposed to
fly into the Alaska Range. I rummaged around in Lowell's
first aid kit and found a couple tubes of emergency dental
filling compounds. I mixed the goop together and applied
it to my friends tooth. Six months later I saw him out
skiing at Kincaid and asked if he got the filling replaced.
His response was: "Damn! I forgot I still had your dental work
in my mouth!"
Lots of good things have been
written about Lowell. As there should be, because he
was a genuinely wonderful person and his wife Tay was too.
But one important thing has been said too infrequently about
him. And that is: Lowell was a skier. Skiing was
important to him and a passion of his. A note he left in
the Whiteout Glacier cabin log book in 1978 (see below) says it
all, in my opinion. After spending time in Juneau being a
politician, when he gets free of that - he hops in his plane,
flies to the Whiteout Glacier and cruises around on his cross
country skis. Not many politicians like that these days.
Lowell will be missed by many.