COVID-19 Impacts

The Koponen families are sheltering in place at their various locations in Alaska and New England in defense of the COVID-19 virus. Joan will be 89 this month, still at the homestead house, so extra precautions need to be taken for prevention. It is possible to go out for walks in local areas, maintaining physical distancing. Internet for the Fairbanks family units are limited, but we’re limping along with as good a humour as can be maintained. Hope all is well with you all.

VERY interesting times.


Nonni in town

Nonni came into town in August and September for a few weeks to work on the cabin he built to get out of the house when he was 17. Various folks had lived and worked on it since, including a number of squirrels who liked the fiberglass insulation. This became the prime focus of the work. And it was more laborious than he had time for, so his brother-in-law and sister helped finish the work.

Having Nonni here was one of the few times in recent years that all 5 kids have been able to have time together. Ah, family.

Newman for GVEA

Chena’s husband Gary was re-elected to the Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) Board of Directors June 2018. GVEA is the regional electric co-op for much of Interior Alaska. It was a close election, winning by just 5 votes. His opponent Frank Eagle, co-owner of Lavelle’s Bistro, ran a negative, falsehood filled campaign in the Trump mold. Sad and it reflects badly on Frank’s character. Regardless, a win is a win and Gary will now serve his second 3 year term. Niilo would be proud as Gary works hard to promote the meaning of a cooperative, member engagement, and transparency along with other board duties.

Update: re-elected again in 2021 with a much wider margin, Gary focused on what was good for our members while the opponent’s supporters were mostly Republicans trying to make it a partisan election. Of interest, Gary’s opponent in 2018 supported Gary.

You can read more about GVEA activities through Gary’s eyes at and his Facebook page Newman.for.GVEA

Sanni moved back to Fairbanks

Last year, we reported that older sister Sanni was still back in Ontario. However, since then, she sold her horse farm there, purchased a 24′ box van to put in all her desired worldly possessions and drove with sister Chena across Canada and back to Fairbanks a couple months ago. Sanni is now living in the Brown’s House on the family property.

On the grandkid front, Dane is still in New Mexico going to art school. Ben is still living and working in Anchorage. Nonni’s daughter Wendy has moved from Rochester, NY to Vermont. Max is still in Boston. He and his wife Sophia with a new little one Theodora aka Teddy purchased a house in S. Boston and are experiencing the joys of home ownership.

Other than this, no substantive updates to report.

What’s New?

There haven’t been a lot of posts as of late. Koponen folks are plugging along.

Joan is still on the Homestead with help from the in-town kids.

Heather seems involved with her social causes and spends time in Manley and fish camp as time allows.

Alex is working on a patent for a type of knife, otherwise no longer lawyering.

Sanni is back in Ontario still.

Nonni and his partner Martine rode bikes around Lake Ontario this summer and put some PV solar collectors on their home.

Chena and Gary spent time with their kids this summer, in particular a new granddaughter of Max and Sophia. Grandkids are supposed to change one’s perspective. I suppose I can agree to that.

The Koponen Homestead trail network has gotten a first class 1.4 mile non-motorized skiing, walking, horseback riding addition above the residential parcels (lots still available). Nice News Miner article today.

I’m sort of glad that Niilo isn’t alive to experience the Trump phenomenon and its affect on the United States. It’s truly bizarre spectacle with some real serious potential consequences reminiscent of 1984, 1930’s Germany and Italy. Fear and emotion are ruling too many folks’ lizard brains.

Oh, and Heather’s yaks were sold and it appears they are now residing on a farm just up the road from Chena and me, on the other side of town. That will be nice for Joan, when she and Chena want to toodle down our road to visit the animals.



Happy holidays

It’s been 2 years since Niilo died and the family is carrying on.

Joan still lives at home, supported by her Fairbanks based kids. Anyone in the area is welcome to call up (in the phone book, remember those?) and visit.

Heather inherited a 14.6 acre part of the homestead and created the Heather Koponen Conservation Property. There are a handful of yaks on the property.20150919_133458_900x506

Koponen Homestead, under the guidance of LLC manager Chena Koponen Newman and the Friends of Koponen Homestead (a non-profit), is working on trails expansion on the remainder.

Sauna, though reduced in numbers, carries on every Sunday evening, administered by Alex.

Nonni and Sanni are still living on the east coast.

Grand kids:

Max is still in Boston, married last year to Sophia Snyder.  They are now expecting their first kid in April 2016.   That will be the second grandkid to report.  Ben is working for the State of Alaska in Anchorage.   Dane is still in Santa Fe going to art school. Katya and her daughter Callie moved back to Montreal from Vancouver, BC last fall.

Niilo would be proud

Niilo would be proud that his son-in-law Gary (that’s me) won his first election to the Golden Valley Electric Cooperative board of directors. This was a spirited campaign with a well known Fairbanks businessman who was a one term incumbent as competition.

I was not so much running against my competition (who is a friend of mine), but because I’d been involved as a co-op member for several decades, believe in the cooperative model and have both the expertise and time to devote to helping set policy and direction for this $250 million non-profit organization.

My mom, who died last year at the age of 94, would also have been proud as she raised me to get involved in making the world a better place. Thanks, Mom.

More info if you want to know:

Kids Gathered and Books

The 5 kids (now grown-ups) of Niilo and Joan gathered at the homestead for a couple weeks earlier in March to go over the 1000 or so books and journals that Niilo had collected over the years. They selected some each for themselves, Joan kept some for the house and most of the rest went to the Ester Library storage, to hopefully be constructed in the next few years. It was a daunting task.

They also completed the necessary work involved to settle Niilo’s estate, a mere 15 or so months since he died on Dec. 3, 2013. Chena has worked very hard during this time as the personal representative for the estate, but all siblings and Joan played a part. Also a daunting task.

Now as Niilo would have said, “Onward”.