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Former Alaskan who lost wife, son in mudslide passes donations to others

Mike Lindblom

SEATTLE -- Gerald Farnes, who lost his wife, Julie, and 23-year-old son, Adam, to the Oso mudslide, has been giving thousands of dollars in donations to other victims who he believes need the money more.

The money includes $3,000 donated by friends in the Farnes' former hometown of Cordova, Alaska, in a benefit pizza bake at Harborside Pizza, according to restaurant owner Brian Wildrick.

Cordova's Moose Lodge donated an additional $500 on hand from its usual fundraisers, such as dinners and silent auctions, said assistant administrator Vicki Blackler.

Many others added contributions, which are still being accepted to the Gerald Farnes Donation Fund at Wells Fargo Bank.

But Farnes, 62, hasn't kept a penny for himself, according to longtime family friend Christian Johnson. Instead, he sought out Jonielle Spillers, whose 4-year-old son, Jacob, was rescued from the mudslide by helicopter, while her husband and three other children were killed or missing.

"He just handed it to Jacob's mother," said Johnson, who used to hunt with Gerald Farnes.

"He lost his wife, his home, his clothes, his guns," Johnson said. "But he knows people who have way less than him."

Julie, 59, and Gerald raised three sons in Cordova. The couple retired and moved with Adam to Oso a couple years ago. Another son, Garrett Farnes, still lives in Cordova. Their oldest, Brian, lives in Everett, Wash.

Gerald was not home when the March 22 mudslide hit.

The family has some retirement income to fall back on, from Julie's work as a UPS delivery driver and Gerald's job at a hydroelectric dam.

Johnson said Gerald Farnes mentioned to him in a phone call Tuesday: "I'm a man, Garrett's a young man. We're going to get ourselves back on our feet."

Giving the Cordova money to others "is helping him to deal with his hurt, to do something for others," Johnson said.

 


By MIKE LINDBLOM
The Seattle Times