May 11, 2009
Recently, I learned of the passing of my friend, John Papp, of Fairbanks, Alaska. I spoke of John in an article on this website in 2007. Millie and I were in Fairbanks that summer and John, who had a booth at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market, let me occupy the space in front of his booth to sell my books. John and his wife, Jo visited with us in Scotia in the fall of 2007. Our friendship continued after that with phone calls and letters.
A geophysicist, John went to Alaska in 1958 to work for the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, and stayed. John and Jo carved out a special place for themselves in the Fairbanks community, among other things challenging themselves to farm in the harsh climate. Jo has even co-authored a book about farming there. The title is, "Like a Tree to the Soil: A History of Farming in Alaska’s Tanana Valley, 1903 to 1940."
I have to admit that most of my friendships are, and have been, long-term ones, with people I have known for years. Occasionally, however, I've met someone whose presence made me feel as though I had known them forever. John is one of those.