Thursday, October 15, 2009

Juneau and Alaska Just Lost a Good Man

Richard "Machine Gun" Foster's  house was pink.

Which is absolutely fitting if you have spent any time in Nome specifically or any place else in Bush Alaska for that matter.  Color schemes are not muted, housing associations and covenants don't hold sway other than folks might get a bit pissed if you drop a Conex and a pile of junked cars on the property line, and one's state representative might just walk around in camouflage pants all the time.

He was most famous for the whole big deal made (federal charges, actually) out of his having unregistered machine guns.  And a 50 mm mortar.  As I reckon it, no Nome jury would have a real problem with that.  They are not your garden-variety Fairbanks gun nutters out there, but probably could relate to having a gun collection.  Who wouldn't want someone like that representing you in Juneau?

Oh, and I highly recommend following the link above to read about his trial on the weapons charges in Nome.  The ADN did us a favor by reposting it. Really, go read it right now.

Did I mention he was a Democrat?  That's the kind of Democrat we have here in Alaska, all you Outside people: gun-toting ones.

I most remember the story of one election night when a reporter went to his house to get his reaction to being reeleected (again.)  It took a bit of knocking on the door, as it was late and Foster probably asleep, but he finally answered the door, all disheveled in an undershirt and his tidy whiteys.  They had a brief interview and it was very business as usual.  Really, who needs clothes for an interview on your doorstep?  Ah, Nome. 

Foster died Tuesday in Seattle while undergoing dialysis.  He was waiting on a kidney transplant.  He'd served as a representative for Western Alaska (a district drawn so huge that it would have been a state in the Lower 48) for as long as I can remember.  But his departure leaves The Lege with one less guy (or gal) who 'gets it' -- who understood Bush Alaska and had been around long enough to remember all the various evolutions of the 'rural-urban divide'.

His approach was the pragmatic one.  One of only a few Democrats in The Lege, he voted with the Republican Caucus - and in return, guaranteed a steady flow of capital projects to the communities he represented.  Not all of us liked it, but I think he still reckoned back to a less partisan time in Juneau and wanted to try to work across party lines.  The dude, was just, well, nice.  So much so that one year he quit the caucus largely over what amounted to hurt feelings about a sandwich.  Eventually, they apologized to him and he rejoined.

He was a pilot and a Vietnam veteran.  He was known for telling stories and jokes, many of the 'pull my finger' variety.  He will be missed -- and Juneau will be a lot less colorful (and authentically Alaskan).  Folks in the wilderburbs and suburbs like to talk about being a "Real Alaskan", but Richard truly was. 

Safe travels, Richard.

1 comment:

Ishmael said...

Very nice remembrance of him. Thanks for writing it. I met him a couple times back in my days out west. He was everything you said - nice, funny, friendly.

Rest in Peace, Representative Richard Foster.