A tale of two local gentlemen

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2006

On the WaterfrontBy Elton Engstrom

Here is a present day tale of the men who live on South Franklin Street.

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Robert Williams, 52, was born June 23, 1953 in Bakersfield, Calif., one of six boys. After graduating from Porterville Union High School, located about 50 miles from Bakersfield, he followed a youthful passion to travel and visited Mexico, Canada and all 50 states, except Hawaii.

He couldn't easily find a working job because he was afflicted with a severe eye weakness. He suffered from myopia nearsightedness. Normal eyesight is 20/20. His was 2200, but with glasses he could just walk and read. Social Security provided him with insurance.

In 1987, at 34, he settled in Juneau. I asked him about his most difficult experience in his traveling days. He said it was in Texas when he was wearing long hair and "the rednecks called me boy." But his older brother, he said, "taught me some martial art moves," and he wasn't harmed physically.

Off and on he has lived at the Glory Hole and often eats dinner meals there. Now he has a one-bedroom apartment in Douglas at the Crown Terrace.

I asked him about the Glory Hole. He said, "It's a good place as a starter for people to get back into housing and to get a job and to seek treatment for various addictions."

"The food is passable, but the dinners are good because the church groups come in."

His credo is "I believe in giving people a chance as long as they help themselves."

And he adds, "I have a lot of patience, so I believe people should be patient with me."

In a sound like a hallelujah chorus he proclaims, "I'm right up there with that Job guy."

One of his best friends who he is often seen with is Anthony Clark McKenzie, 35, born Sept. 3, 1970, in Oakland, Calif. Anthony and Robert met in 1993 at the Glory Hole. Anthony is also on Social Security. He can earn $850 a month and still get his full disability payment. He has worked at Alaskan & Proud market as a courtesy clerk and his infectious good humor causes people to recognize him at the check out line.

Anthony also rents a one-bedroom.

Robert Williams' ambitions in life are simple and universal. "I want to be financially independent and able to buy a home."

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.



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