I am saddened to learn that my longtime friend Gov. Jay Hammond died (Tuesday). I am fortunate to have spent time just last week with Jay and his wife, Bella, at the memorial service in Kenai for former Senator and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Don Gilman.
Last fall, I spent two days with the Hammonds at their Lake Clark homestead. Filmmaker David Kaplan and I interviewed these extraordinary Alaskans for a documentary.
Gov. Hammond provided colorful gems of his career, adventures in Alaska and political philosophy.
As he spoke, I was reminded of my continuing impression of him as a man who cared foremost for Alaskans and the future of our state.
Although he did not seek the limelight to do so, Jay Hammond was willing to publicly talk about his faith. It was real to him. I found his belief that God has a sense of humor and his slight irreverence toward some religious traditions refreshing. Jay cared little for social conventions if they did not lead to improved friendships and positive changes for his beloved state.
Those new to Alaska may not have had a chance to meet this colorful “Bush Rat” and reluctant former governor. Alaska has lost a true friend, but we are better for his having soared its skies, tramped its tundra and fished its waters.
Gov. Hammond’s footsteps will long resound through the halls of Juneau and political gatherings throughout our state. Carolyn and I offer our sincere condolences to Bella and their daughters, Heidi and Dana, extended family and their friends across Alaska.
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