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Kasilof woman returns home to start anew

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2001

A longtime Kasilof resident is back home after three years Outside.

"Kasilof is a state of mind," said Geralynn Ransom. "And I'm home."

Ransom returned to Alaska for good earlier this month after spending the last three winters in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

"I just wanted to go outside for a break. The winters had been bothering me for a while."

She spent her first winter away deciding, she said, what she wanted to be when she grew up. It is always hard to make a decision like that, because the truth is no one wants to grow up, Ransom said.

However, Ransom, 40, was faced with little choice after her husband, Jeff, was killed in an avalanche while snowmachining in 1994. She knew that her commercial fishing setnet site wouldn't provide the income needed to raise her two children.

She finally made the decision to go back to school in Plattsburgh for a nursing degree, but she didn't want to leave her children -- Ben, now 9, and Madeline, now 7 -- at home without their mother. So she waited another winter until Madeline was old enough for kindergarten and they started school at the same time.

Ransom already had a bachelor's degree in biology from Plattsburgh State University, but 20 years later she found herself back in school.

"I chose nursing because it is flexible. I always liked the health care field," she said. "There is so much room for expansion. The medical field is so interesting, no matter where you go, you can be a nurse."

"If I wanted to go to Fiji, I could be a nurse there."

She had a substantial support group in New York that helped her through her years of school. Ransom first attended Paul Smith's College, but transferred to Clinton Community College, where she recently graduated as valedictorian of her class.

Now she is back home in Kasilof, where there are several other Plattsburgh transplants who awaited the return of their friend.

A number of former Plattsburgh residents now make their homes and livings in Kasilof, and Ransom is among the closely knit network of friends. Many of the families, like Ransom, also setnet on the Cohoe beach.

Of all the Plattsburgh transplants who now live in Kasilof, only a few knew each other directly when they lived in the New York town, population 20,000.

"You probably had seen everyone at some point," Ransom said. "But you didn't know everyone."

Ransom has recently combined forces with one of the other families from New York, and now they fish together during the salmon season. As the season nears, Ransom also is busy organizing details for the seventh annual Jeff Ransom Memorial Fun Run, which takes place Saturday. The run began the summer after her husband's death as a memorial to him and an opportunity for community members to get together and enjoy the summer.

"Jeff was the sort of guy who brought people together," said Ransom, adding that after his death, friends told her that Jeff had always been the center of their group.

The Fun Run usually has about 85 participants who run, walk or bike, and throughout the day, Ransom said, at least 200 people wander through for the picnic.

Generally, it is members of the Kasilof community who turn out for the event, since it is scheduled around the solstice and competes with several other activities, she said.

Ransom considered the possibility of switching dates or trying to earn a profit on the run, but Jeff's birthday is June 25.

"I'd rather have it not break even, not make any money than change the day," Ransom said.

Any money that is earned from the day is donated to the Alaska Mountain Safety Center.

Ransom said she hopes to work at the hospital or doctor's office once she passes her board exams this summer. She also said she is back in the state for good.

"Alaska is the sort of place you lose your heart to," she said.



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