Sixty Years and Counting

By Susan Sommer

All hands on deck! Taken at Resurrect Art Coffee House in Seward.

This spring, my parents, Red and Bunny Beeman, celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. They each landed in Alaska on their own trajectories before statehood, met through Mom’s cousin (who knew Dad from the trapline), and married in 1959, the same year Alaska joined the nation. My brother and I came along soon after, and together we’ve all made a memorable life in the Last Frontier.

Red and Bunny Beeman look for fish in the outlet of Tern Lake on the way to Seward.

After a long, snowy winter, we needed a road trip, so the folks and I met my brother and his wife in Seward. These days, my octogenarian parents don’t bounce from bed in the morning the way they used to, but neither are they fuddy duddies. Our first order of business, before even arriving in Seward, was for the five of us to meet at Tern Lake, the junction of the Seward and Sterling Highways, for a picnic lunch and bird watching. Tiny birch leaves were just starting to unfurl around us on a lookout we’ve visited for decades. Some kind of hawk swooped through the spruce trees, chasing a noisy yellowlegs. We sat on the bench and soaked up the sun.

The author’s parents explore a trail in Seward.

Once in Seward, we strolled, napped, and ate. One morning, Mom and Dad lounged in our room at the historical Hotel Seward in the lush bathrobes the establishment provides. I took them to Resurrect Art Coffee House for lattes and to see all the colorful creations on display inside the converted church. We discovered a short path—Two Lakes Trail—at the base of Mt. Marathon (of the infamous annual Independence Day race) and started our walk just behind the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) building off of Second Ave. Although graveled and crisscrossed with roots, the trail did not intimidate my determined mother, who walks slowly with a cane on level ground. We simply reclaimed a straight-enough stick from the ground as another “hiking pole” for her and traipsed along through the forest. I normally hike with fit outdoorspeople, but I enjoyed slowing down and peering closely at the green mosses, tiny fungi, and emerging leaves.

Pulled pork tacos at The Smoke Shack in Seward. The restaurant is inside an old
Alaska Railroad railcar.

During their 60 years together, my parents have seen Alaska change in many ways, from the devastating 9.2 Good Friday earthquake in 1964 (Seward suffered heavy damage from the shaker and ensuing tsunami), through the pipeline boom of the 1970s, to today’s epic political battles. They have slowed with age, certainly, but they have never given up—on each other, on Alaska, on life. Today, in fact, on a sunny May morning, Dad is buzzing his skill saw through sturdy lumber for a new vegetable planter box while Mom places more seeds into her already thriving gardens.

I wonder what the next decade holds for our family? And I wonder, too, how will the next 60 years play out for our state? It’s anyone’s guess, but I hope when I’m old I can still sit on that scenic knoll overlooking Tern Lake, and still hobble down a wooded trail, and enthusiastically say “Yes!” to another road trip.