Kenai Superior Court Judge Jonathan H. Jon Link Jan. 22, 1944 - March 25, 2003 What others say

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

Maybe it was his collection of neckties. There wasn't a staid one in the bunch. Forget power red and pinstripe blue; instead, underneath those judicial black robes were ties featuring bright yellow smiley faces, colorful Tweedy Birds and a host of whimsical designs by disabled children.

Maybe it was those sayings of his Jonathanisms, his friends call them. He had one for every occasion. Words of wisdom like "Let it lay where Jesus flung it" are remembered with smiles and laughter.

Maybe it was that bucket full of tools in his office. He liked to putter, and he was the one to fix things at the courthouse until the "official" repairperson could arrive.

Maybe it was his office, with its cove blue walls and those bright red hanging lamps. It certainly wasn't the stereotype of what a judge's chambers should look like.

Or maybe it was his stories stories that could only be told by a man who lived life fully, observed carefully and knew life without humor would be bland indeed.

In a myriad of ways, Judge Link showed there was far more to his life than being a judge.

Although his professional accomplishments are many, it was Judge Link's humanity a humanity that he brought to the bench with him that friends took the time to recall earlier this week.

In his positions as lawyer and judge, he would see some of life's worst, but that didn't stop him from seeing its best. In fact, one of his most endearing qualities may be that he really liked people. And he didn't make distinctions based on their education, occupation or income. Everyone was treated the same, and everyone was a friend if they wanted to be. There wasn't a discriminatory bone in his body, nor a snobbish one, say those who knew him.

He was fond of details a walking repository of little-known facts from who knows where. And whether it was research for work or research on some personal project like building a fountain, he tackled it whole-heartedly. Friends would hear about the interesting to him minutiae he uncovered; there was never anything misinformed about what he did, they say.

He was known for quixotic adventures, including the purchase of the Palace Saloon at Alaskaland in Fairbanks many years ago, a 1918 carousel and an 1898 band organ. A role he played during summer performances at the Palace Saloon coupled with his size became the source of a nickname that stuck, "Big Foot."

He loved Alaska. He had been stationed at Fort Wainwright, and he returned to the state after getting his law degree. As much as possible, vacations were spent in state, at a cabin in the Interior. Jetboating on the Yukon River was a favorite pastime.

He was appointed to the Superior Court bench in Kenai by Gov. Steve Cowper in 1990. When it came to the law, he had no agenda except to apply the law to the facts of the case. Even those lawyers who were on the losing side of his decisions respected him. A measure of the esteem in which he was held is seen in the professional positions to which he was elected: the Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar Association and the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Kenai has one of the nicest courthouses in the state in form and function, due largely to Judge Link's influence. While architectural plans called for a big landscaped area, Judge Link knew that a busy day at the courthouse would mean as many as 75 to 100 cars would need parking. At his urging, the landscaped area was eliminated to make way for a large parking lot. It's a decision no one regrets. And, although he could have, he didn't give himself the prime parking spot. It was typical, unselfish Judge Link, who never used his position to his own advantage.

Those who work in the Clarion's newsroom knew him as a great encourager, who managed to find time for them. He understood things like deadlines because he had been the editor of his college newspaper. He was a great defender of the First Amendment. His open-door policy extended not only to the media but to agency representatives, attorneys, guardians and others.

While he was a good attorney and an even better judge, the roles he relished most were as husband and father.

Judge Link's death leaves far more than a judicial vacancy in Kenai. His legacy is one of living big through everyday things, learning constantly, laughing heartily and often, and modeling the golden rule.

Alaska is a better place because of Jonathan Link's wit, wisdom and life. Our heartfelt sympathy to his family, many friends and colleagues.

A memorial service for Judge Link will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska State Courthouse in Kenai, 125 Trading Bay Drive.

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