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Court atrium dedicated

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2003

Comparing the "light, clarity and warmth" emitted by the Kenai Courthouse atrium to the smile of the late Judge Jonathan H. Link, the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court dedicated the central corridor of the building to the memory of Link.

"John put a lot of himself into this building," said the Honorable Alexander O. Bryner in a one-hour ceremony Wednesday afternoon, recognizing Link's involvement with the building of the courthouse and his service on the bench there until his death earlier this year.

In opening the ceremony attended by about 100 friends and family members of Link, Superior Court Judge Harold M. Brown read from a letter written in 1993 by Judge Link's law clerk Ryan Bell.

"Judge Link loved the law," read Brown.

"He was the kind of lawyer I'd like to be.

"His monument is not of marble or stone, but is in the lives of those who came before him as plaintiffs and defendants," Bell's letter said.

Brown, Link's former secretary Lesa Chircop and Court Clerk Robin Andree said earlier that while the Kenai Courthouse was being built in 1993, Judge Link would visit the site a few times a week recommending changes to the architect reflecting Link's experience in courtroom proceedings.

"He noticed things that needed change," Andree said.

"There was a high barrier between where the judge sat and where his in-court clerk would be.

"The judge could not see the in-court clerk. 'That just wouldn't work,' he told them," Andree said.

"He also switched the position of the in-court clerk and the witness, because the way they had it, he would not be able to make eye contact with the witnesses," she said.

Patterned after the courthouse built in Palmer in 1987, the Kenai building was expanded to house one additional courtroom, bringing its total to four.

"The architect had designed the parking lot with a lot of little trees and shrubs, but Judge Link suggested removing those frills to allow for increased parking," said Judge Brown.

"As big as it is now, it still fills up on some days," Andree said.

Chircop, who said Judge Link was always considerate of the needs of others, even before himself, recalled that as the administrative judge in Kenai, Link assigned parking places for the other judges and did not take the spot closest to the entrance for himself.

"He gave that space to Judge (Charles) Cranston because he had the longest distance to walk to his courtroom," she said.

She also remembered that it was Judge Link who ordered that the employee entrance be covered because in its original design, icy conditions would form at the door.

During the dedication ceremony, a number of state and court dignitaries spoke of Link's character and of his love of the law.

"I saw him as a genuine individual who was always interacting with people. I think the community has lost a great addition," said Robert Cowan, president of the Kenai Bar Association.

"He had a sense of humor and put a human face on the judicial system," said Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

"The shoes of Judge Link will probably never be filled," Leman said.

State Rep. Kelly Wolf read a citation from the 23rd Alaska State Legislature, outlining Link's career, his professional memberships and his interests.

He presented a copy of the citation to Mildred Link, Judge Link's widow, and the framed original of the document now hangs on the atrium wall alongside a portrait of Judge Link and a framed certificate of recognition from the Alaska Court System.

"The plaques will remain here as long as the building is standing," Judge Brown said.

At the end of the formal ceremony, Mildred Link recalled being told that an eagle had been seen circling the courthouse on the day of the memorial service to Judge Link shortly after his death.

She said she and the judge had often admired the eagles that flew near their home overlooking Cook Inlet.

Shortly after the memorial service a friend of hers told her that she had watched an eagle circling near their home and that she was a member of the Tlingit Eagle Clan who always looked to Judge Link as her big brother.

Recently, when Mildred Link and daughter Lydia returned from an annual trip to the Alaska Bush, she said she was standing in the family driveway when she heard a whooshing sound from behind her.

"An eagle, no more than three feet above me flew over and out over the inlet," she said.

"It sent chills through me."



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