Thanks to unrelenting persistence and a commitment to reduce drownings, Alaskans in the Y-K Delta finally have a pool. Elmer Rasmuson would have approved. Read why in this week's post.

Elmer Rasmuson lived a lifetime of achievement.

He grew the National Bank of Alaska into the largest in the state, served as Mayor of Anchorage, and chaired the Alaska Permanent Fund Board of Trustees, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

But there was one achievement that eluded Elmer his entire life. He dreamed of being an Eagle Scout. But he couldn’t swim. And Boy Scouts required that candidates for its highest rank be proficient swimmers. Growing up in Yakutat and Skagway, he had no place to learn.


Last Saturday Rasmuson Foundation experienced something very special when we were invited to participate in the grand opening of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health and Safety Center in Bethel (Tier 2 award of $740,549 for furniture, fixtures, equipment and art). In front of a crowd of a couple hundred people, Board members Natasha von Imhof (Elmer’s granddaughter), Linda Leary and President Diane Kaplan joined other state and local leaders in jumping into the deep end, officially opening the pool up to the community.

The $23 million facility was decades in the making and a tribute to the hard work, spirit and determination of leaders like Bev Hoffman who long ago took their own plunge in committing to shepherd the project to fruition. As a result of all the meetings, phone calls, letters, two sales tax increases and countless cookie drives, the people of the Y-K have a beautiful place to learn to swim; to exercise; to recreate and come together as a community.

So regardless of whether the goal is to become a better swimmer in a region that has lost so many to drownings, or to become an Eagle Scout, the people of the Y-K will know that despite the daunting odds, they persevered and came together to build something great. And that is inspiration to us all. Congratulations Y-K, and thanks for letting us be part of the celebration.