Trying To Smile Without Miles

We heard the emergency broadcast on an EMT's pager at church, the voice said there was a 63 year old man, unresponsive on Mosquito Lake, CPR had begun. When the service was over another EMT, arriving to pick up his wife said the man hadn't made it, but couldn't, as per the volunteer ambulance crew code, say who it was. But he was shook up. "It'll be a real blow the town," he said. " He was pretty popular." It was on Mosquito Lake, in January. A snowmachiner? An ice fisherman? I guessed hoping to get a clue. "Skiing. He was skiing with friends." That limited the possibilities. Skiers and snowmachiners are different crowds. Except one. The best one. The guy who set the cross country ski tracks for all of us at 26 mile and then spray-painted "Shop Miles for Miles of Smiles" in the snow with arrows and mileage to Main Street. There's no easy way to say it. We lost Dennis Miles yesterday. His heart stopped when he was skiing. There was nothing to be done. My husband had to sit down when he got the phone call. Then he said, "Dennis told me once his father died on the dance floor." He had said it was a good way to go. Sure, but not at 63. Not now. But pretty soon we were telling Dennis stories, from the way he wore those cycling tights that looked like blue jeans on the bike race, he was on our team the first year we won the four person mixed category,  to how he won both the AlCan 200 snowmachine race and the 10K at the Buckwheat ski race. There aren't  a lot of skiers who can even drive a snowmachine, much less build a racing model. Dennis woke us up at 1:00 in the morning the year we won a big snowburners'  raffle he had sold us a ticket for.  He hollered outside our bedroom window that he was from the publisher's clearing house sweepstakes and we were the lucky winners. Are we getting old when we say that they don't make people like that anymore? My friend Tom, the newspaper editor half-joked yesterday that he wasn't sure he wanted me to write the obituary. He didn't want Dennis to die. "It can't be" He said. He was not prepared to live in a Haines without Dennis.  There must be a mistake. (And wouldn't Dennis love to quote Twain that the rumors of his death have been exaggerated? He'd have a fake funeral sale.)Who else could have made a living selling furniture and appliances here? Dennis could sell a guy without running water a washing machine. (You'll never get a better price, he'd store it until you got plumbing.) He did it all with the kind of wit and charm of a Steve Martin double. They could have been brothers. I remember when the board at KHNS objected to his underwriting statement, because it sounded like an ad. So Dennis changed the name of his store from Miles Furniture and Upholstery to Miles Furniture showroom, carpet warehouse, Sony dealer and appliance palace. -- Or something like that, and painted it on the side of his building to prove it.  It makes me smile like Miles just thinking about it.

In other news, 8 year-old  Lydia Andriesen is recovering from an emergency appendectomy in Juneau. It was close, as the Guardian Air flight couldn't leave Sitka due to weather Saturday morning, but after the Haines runway was sanded a Wings plane took off and brought Lydia and her dad Thom to Juneau. "Believe it or not we took a taxi to the emergency room," Thom said. "She's doing great."

Also, the Lady Glacier Bears trounced Wrangell two nights in a row in Haines, but the boys fell to the Wolves both nights down in Wrangell.

This afternoon at 4 the Lady Glacier Bears play the defending state champion 2A powerhouse Skagway Lady Panthers. The girls are coming over on a tug boat from Skagway and will spend the night and play again tomorrow after school before chugging back across the canal. It promises to be a great series.




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