I’ve known Lee Jordan for many years and was deeply saddened to hear of his recent passing. Over the years, he was my editor, mentor, colleague and friend.
For Chugiak/Eagle River, which he liked to call “the center of the universe,” he was more than a pillar of the community. He was its bedrock. While we didn’t win the battle for its independence from Anchorage that he spearheaded in the 1970s, he played a key role in forging the community’s separate identity — an identity that is proudly embraced today.
Anyone who resides in Eagle River/Chugiak/Birchwood is quick to point out that they don’t live in Anchorage. Lee was a key figure in instilling that community pride and sense of place.
A baseball field was named after him, but in my opinion, because of his many contributions to the community over the decades, the Eagle River/Chugiak area could rightfully be named “Jordan.” But knowing Lee’s genuine modesty, he would never push for anything like that.
Lee was the consummate professional journalist, whose chief credo was accuracy. For several years I contributed to the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, a weekly newspaper he founded in 1971 and ran for 30 years. On occasion, he gently corrected my facts when it came to historical events, such as the early power project at Eklutna Lake. He was a stickler for detail, and in his newspaper columns and books, was as demanding of himself as he was with others.
Back when my wife and I attended the Eagle River Presbyterian Church, we always looked forward to hearing the choir, of which Lee was a longstanding member. Just as he was for the community in so many ways, he was always there – a foundational rock that you could count on.
I recently exchanged emails with Lee, complaining about the aches and pains of aging. He asked me how old I was. “Seventy-three,” I replied. “You’re a youngster,” he laughed. “I just turned 88.” That brief exchange made my day and the pains suddenly faded into the background. Lee’s sense of humor was unflagging.
From the days when Eagle River was not much more than a gas station and grocery store along the Glenn Highway on the way to Palmer, Lee and his wife Barbara carved out a wonderful life in Alaska. And in doing so, they touched the lives of many. To name a few of the homesteaders and pioneers of our area with whom they rubbed elbows over the years: The Pippels, Willises, Obergs, Fetrows, Frys, Abrams, Wallaces, Riddells, Haiks, McDowells, Brooks, Briggs, Braendels, Jankes – and so many more.
Other editors will review this piece. But in my mind, Lee will be looking at it too, hovering with his red pen. And I would be surprised, even disappointed, if he didn’t find something to correct.
God bless you, Lee. For all of us at the ECHO, and I think I speak for folks at the Star too, you will forever remain our “editor-in-chief.”
Finally, For Lee’s benefit, I’ll end with the Associated Press mark denoting a story’s completion: -30-
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired grade school teacher. For several years before joining the ECHO team, Frank wrote for the Chugiak-Eagle River Star newspaper.
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