Many people who come to fish the Kenai River are fulfilling a life long dream or goal. For some, once they've experienced the thrill of the greatest sport fishing river in the world, they come back again and again. So it was with Keith Boltz, a master carpenter who divided his time between working in Arizona in the winters and fishing on the Kenai River in the summers.
According to Boltz's sister Kim LaMothe, Keith was a bachelor who did whatever he wanted to and what he loved to do most was fish on the Kenai River, "When he was working in Arizona, he would be counting the days until he left for Alaska," said LaMothe in a telephone interview from Montana. Then unexpectedly last year at only 54 years of age, Keith Boltz died from a massive heart attack. The family in lieu of flowers requested that donations be sent in his name to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). "Keith's passion was fishing on the river, and he was very impressed with the work the Kenai River Sportfishing organization was doing so my sister and I were sure that was what Keith would have wanted us to do. Working with KRSA on this project has been a real pleasure, I can't say enough good things about their work and people like Dave Lowery," said LaMothe.
"We got a call from Keith's sisters asking about our organization and the work we did and they told us they wanted to contribute something to the organization in their brother's memory because he had appreciated our work even though he was not a member of KRSA. We thought that was quite nice and had no idea how much was going to come in, so as the money continued to roll in I thought maybe we should memorialize Keith Boltz and his love of the river in a unique way, rather than putting the funds toward our regular projects," said Dave Lowery, KRSA Board member.
Lowery came up with the idea of having Sterling Wood Carver, Scott Hansen create a memorial bench to be located at the Pillars boat launch park, near where Les Anderson caught the world record King Salmon and a place where it could be enjoyed by visitors who like Keith loved and appreciated the Kenai River. "Keith caught a 65 pound king the last summer he fished on the Kenai, and I still have the letter in which he wrote us every detail of the greatest fish of his life," said his sister. Kim says that when Dave Lowery contacted Scott Hansen about the project, Scott had already had a dream of a bench built to scale of Kenai Kings leaping from the water, "We really feel that Keith was up there guiding this project all along."
"Scott Hansen's ideas and thoughts materialized in one of the most marvelous creations of a bench that I think I have ever seen. It's a true work of art. The bench consists of two fish right and left seemingly leaping out of the water and the back of the bench is a carving of two king salmon going to the right and the left and in the center a huge king seemingly leaping from the river where we have the Keith Boltz memorial plaque. We are very proud of the way this project turned out," said Lowery. Hansen carved the bench using spruce trees native to the Kenai Peninsula.
According to Lowery the bench has become a very popular photo opportunity for tourists and fishers coming to the park. The Keith Boltz memorial bench was officially dedicated last month, and the Boltz family was present for the ceremony. "Keith was a master craftsman himself, and he appreciated the skill and workmanship of Scott Hansen before he passed away. We feel that his life is truly honored by the bench. My sister Karen's husband has now caught the fishing bug, so you can be sure we'll back to visit the bench and experience Keith's passion for fishing on the River," said LaMothe.
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