Businessman Garrison remembered for big heart

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2003

Well-known local businessman Chris Garrison was found dead at his Starr Hill home Tuesday. He was 58.

Garrison was born in Juneau and lived here all his life. He was known for his generosity, sporty cars, political ads and pointed bumper stickers.

"Extremely outgoing," said his former wife, Darlene Carpenter of Juneau. "Very jovial. Very enthusiastic. Jumped right in the middle of everything."

Garrison co-owned two retail buildings downtown and helped lift the printing company Alaska Litho out of bankruptcy, said longtime business partner Richard Stone.

"He was very sharp," Stone said of Garrison, whom he knew for 23 years. "He was very intelligent. He was very fair."

Garrison and two partners purchased Alaska Litho in 1971, Stone said. Garrison later bought out those partners and brought in Stone as a partner. Stone bought Garrison's shares about six years ago, he said, but Garrison remained active in the business and owned its building near the rock dump downtown.

"He was probably the one instrumental person who developed that business and made it successful," Stone said.

Garrison also owned Moonlight Marine, where he repaired boat engines and outboards. He was an avid boater and owned a 50-foot pleasure craft.

"He worked so hard his whole life," said his son, Hayden Garrison of Juneau. "I remember times he never came home. He lay down on the couch at work, caught a few Z's and went back to work."

Family and friends remembered Garrison's generosity.

"The most generous and big-hearted person," Stone said. "He could be the life of the party and he was always very, very willing to help people. There wasn't a time when if somebody asked and needed something, he didn't respond in some way."

Garrison's daughter, Kemmie Garrison of Portland, Ore., remembers going over with him a list of about 35 charities he regularly donated money to.

Garrison - a lover of exotic cars such as a Ferrari, a limited-edition Aston Martin and a Viper - gave family members and friends cars, Kemmie said.

"I can't tell you how many times he's bought cars for people," she said.

Hayden said he once asked his father about his expensive buying habits. "He smiled and he says, 'I'm loving life,' " Hayden said.

Kevin Garrison of Bellevue, Wash., one of Garrison's brothers, said it wasn't speed that attracted him to sport cars.

"He had more fun idling down the middle of Front Street going real slow and letting the engine hum at everybody," Kevin said.

Former Mayor Dennis Egan, who called Garrison his best friend, remembers a teenage stunt in which they ran Garrison's Mini Morris into Dredge Lake.

They decided to carry the car into the furnace room of the Egans' house to dry out the car, Egan recalled. That is, until the house began to reek of gas.

"We didn't think of things like that back then," Egan said. "We had to get up at three in the morning and get that car out of there."

Garrison also was known for creating bumper stickers that commented on local people or politics. If someone ran his boat aground, a bumper sticker would appear suggesting it was time to dredge that water body.

And he placed ads in the Empire to support his favorite candidates. Garrison's politics depended on who irritated him first, Egan suggested.

"But if he liked you ... he was your strongest supporter. Sometimes you didn't want him to be your strongest supporter," he added wryly.

A celebration of Garrison's life will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Moose Lodge on Old Dairy Road, his family said.

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