Fitting memorial

Life of local outdoor admirers honored on Black Bear Chair tower

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

Through a circle of friends that stretches far beyond the boundaries of Juneau, the lives of two men will forever be remembered amidst the elements and conditions they knew and loved.

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Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire

On a tower that supports the components of the Black Bear Chair at the Eaglecrest Ski Area are the names of Peter Barrett and Tobias Lee, a memorial from friends who wanted to preserve the memory of the two men who lost their lives.

Lee's cousin, Brant Oliphant, said the two men only briefly knew each other, but they were connected aside from their own personal acquaintance. Their deaths, which friends and family say came "too early," brought together a new group of people who continue to celebrate their lives.

During construction of the lift, $5000 was raised to sponsor the tower which stands as a memorial to the two men.

"We got $1000 from Squaw Valley where he worked as a bartender at an Irish pub," Oliphant said. "All his buddies hung out there and they donated to him."

Oliphant said Lee's brother collected the donated money and sent it to his father in Juneau. Family and friends then donated another $1,500, bringing the total to $2,500. This, all in honor of Lee who died in an avalanche in April of 2006, while skiing near Mount Baker in Washington state.

Peter Barrett, who was a well-known photographer and active member of the Juneau community, died while kayaking off North Douglas Island in March of 2005.

Though Lee and Barrett were only acquaintances, their circle of friends remains strong.

"We are a really close group and I was really good friends with Tobias and Peter," Amanda Gable said. "Over the years the money has been raised for Peter and we donated to a chair to begin with, then we decided to do a tower when Brant had come up to me wanting to do something nice for Toby. We decided it would be a nice tribute to our friends."

Oliphant said he knew Barrett pretty well and although it took several years for the group to pull the money together, it is nice to see the memory of the two men live on.

"It's pretty cool because I think it's one of the few (towers) that is for individuals instead of businesses," he said. "We're right up there with Wells Fargo and Alaska USA - the big guys."

To the group of friends, the outdoors, especially the ski slopes, seemed an appropriate place for the men to be remembered.

"They were both skiers and were both very connected to the mountain and the outdoors here in Alaska," Gable said. "Peter was a snowboard instructor at Eaglecrest for quite some time and was really active in the community."

Barrett's name lives on both in his photography and hismemorial fund.

"We used to do a yearly memorial fundraiser for Peter every year and Eaglecrest would usually donate a season pass," Gable said. "All the money raised would go to the Juneau Community Fund."

Through the fund, Gable also sponsors a yearly donation to the Juneau Mountain Rescue and a yearly donation to the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council for a photography scholarship.

"It's a yearly donation that we give to Juneau Arts and Humanities and they have an application process," she said. "Then they give some money to whoever has the best submission that year."

Gable said Barrett's photography is sold usually every summer at the visitors center in the form of magnets. She also said some of the profit goes straight to the Peter Barrett Memorial Fund while another portion goes to Barrett's family.

For two outdoorsmen who died doing the things they loved, the slopes of Eaglecrest offer a place where their names can forever be seen by friends and strangers who enjoy the very things that Lee and Barrett shared a passion for.

• Matthew Tynan can be reached at matthew.tynan@juneauempire.com.



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