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On a mission

Wheels in motion to make landmark in Kenai a place for the homeless to stay

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2004

 

  George Delano, a man who wished not to be identified, Graydon Cowgill and Zane Kummert erect a cross in front of the building that once housed Eadie¿s Frontier Club in north Kenai. Cowgill hopes to turn the storied structure into a shelter for the homeless. Photo by M. Scott Moon

George Delano, a man who wished not to be identified, Graydon Cowgill and Zane Kummert erect a cross in front of the building that once housed Eadies Frontier Club in north Kenai. Cowgill hopes to turn the storied structure into a shelter for the homeless.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Graydon "Skip" Cowgill has a mission or at least plans for one.

The Louisiana man is in the process of starting a rescue mission for the homeless and downtrodden of the central Kenai Peninsula. And his choice of a location for his redemption project couldn't be more appropriate: the building that once housed Eadie's Frontier Club, a notorious bar, hotel, pawn shop and show club once run by one of Kenai's most colorful citizens.

On Saturday, Cowgill and a group of helpers raised a large wooden cross outside the building, which has stood vacant for several years.

The idea of turning Eadie's into a mission came to Cowgill in a divine way. He said he was on vacation last year in Alaska when his son-in-law pointed out the old building and filled him in on its history.

"The lord laid it on my heart that it needed to be something good," Cowgill said, following the raising of the cross. "Every time I passed by there, I had the same feeling."

Cowgill said the idea became more and more powerful, to the point where he dreamt about it.

"I had a dream that I had got it for taxes," he said. "And I got it for this year's taxes."

Harold Lewis is the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Nikiski. On Saturday, Lewis led a small group of people in prayer to dedicate the cross. After giving his blessing, Lewis talked about Cowgill's unique vision.

"He has really been blessed," Lewis said.

Ethel "Eadie" Henderson first opened the Frontier Club in 1952, and for more than half a decade it has stood as a Kenai landmark. Many people still associate the club with the dancing and prostitution that made it notorious.

But those who knew Eadie best knew her as a shrewd businesswoman who carved out a life in a harsh environment, yet still had a penchant for helping others.

"It's what she did help people out," said her son, Zane Kummert, who helped raise the cross Saturday.

In the book, "Once Upon the Kenai," Eadie, who died in 2000, told of the early days of homesteading on the Kenai, and how the homesteaders' spirit of helping each other was the norm in those days.

"People cared for each other and looked out for their welfare. I did a lot to help my neighbors and was, in turn, accepted and treated as one of them," she wrote.

Kummert said he believes turning the club into a mission is right in line with his mom's way of thinking, and he be-lieves she would be proud to see the work being done at the old place.

"I don't think she'd have it any other way," he said.

Cowgill said he hopes to have "Friendship Mission" up and running by next year. His plan is to basically accept anyone in need who shows up asking for help.

"We want to help anyone that comes through the doors," he said.

Kummert said the mission is the lord's way of enabling his mother to keep up her lifelong desire to help people in any way she could.

"Where my mom left off, Skip's going to take over," he said.

In her final entry in the book, Eadie wrote of a vision for Alaska's future that included making the land she loved a more welcoming place for all who came after her.

She wrote, "Our children now and in the future should be proud of the homesteaders who had the courage, fortitude and spirit to carry on and leave for future generations a new easier lifestyle in this beautiful 'Land of the Midnight Sun.'"



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