Protester signs his disapproval of warBy JOSEPH ROBERTIAPeninsula ClarionAt this time of year, it's not unusual for folks to wake up early and don their rubber waders, fishing vest and a floppy-billed hat festooned with colorful flies and lures. But for Ralph Van Dusseldorp of Kenai, there is one exception that makes him stand out like a fish out of water.
Rather heading down to the river with his rod in hand, Van Dusseldorp heads to the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Bridge Access Road in Kenai with a homemade sign that reads "Fisherman for Peace in Iraq."
"It's a personal statement," he said. "I feel strongly that we need peace in Iraq and we need to push for an end to the war, and I wanted to do something about it."
Van Dusseldorp is a retired professor from University of Alaska Anchorage and also is a Korean War veteran. Some of the other signs he holds up include "Veterans for Peace in Iraq" and "Think Peace."
"This brings more smiles, though," he said in regard to the fisherman sign and attire.
He's been at it an hour a day, every day for the last six weeks, although the returning sockeye salmon have altered his schedule a bit.
"I used to come every day from 7 to 8 a.m., but I started fishing, so now I come at all different times," Van Dusseldorp said.
Van Dusseldorp was in the Progress Days parade recently where he carried his peace placard and walked with the informal social group People for Peace and Justice.
"I didn't start out to do it this long," he said.
Van Dusseldorp said he has been well received by the community and it has encouraged him to keep coming back.
"I really had no idea that the responses would be so nice," he said.
"The whole time I've been doing this I've only gotten five negative responses, like a thumb's down sign or an upraised middle finger," he said.
Van Dusseldorp said the positive responses have been almost innumerable.
"I've had 44 positive responses just in the last hour," he said Thursday morning. The responses included a thumb's up, honking and waving and flashing a peace sign.
Van Dusseldorp said some people even take it a step further by bringing him food and beverages.
"I had a guy come up this morning that I was apprehensive about at first. He was big and had lots of tattoos and I thought 'This might be trouble.'" he said.
However, the man just wanted to acknowledge Van Dusseldorp's dedication and give him a cup of coffee.
"He was really nice," Van Dusseldorp said.
As to how long he will continue standing up for his beliefs by standing on a street corner, Van Dusseldorp said he will continue as long as he seems to be having an effect.
"If nothing else, maybe it starts a few people talking about a strange old guy on the corner, but that gets them talking and thinking about something pretty important." he said.
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