Story last updated at 5/8/2013 - 3:46 pm
Ever wondered about someone you pass on the sidewalk, see in the grocery store, or heard mentioned in stories? This is our attempt to track those people down, and grill them, lightly.
Eric Kueffner stood tall and wiry as he placed his skis against the Nest, the warming hut at the top of Eaglecrest Ski Area the day before it closed. Everything about his appearance was of this millennium, or close enough, with the exception of one thing: His outfit.
Kueffner had on one outfit from his large collection of Onesies, that is, a one-piece ski suit. He's acquired them almost exclusively at the annual Juneau ski swap, which speaks volumes about both the local skiing community as well as Kueffner.
Generally, (yes, there have been very recent exceptions that we can argue about later), people wear one-piece ski suits either out of ignorance/lack of concern for style or to mock the former. Kueffner did not appear to fit into either category. Kueffner has style, (for example, he wore a purple and orange tie the day of the interview), and he's too humble to mock. He's just an honest conundrum.
So he's honest and humble, but he will tell you that George W. Bush is not originally from Texas as Bush would like you to think, but from Kueffner's hometown in Connecticut.
Kueffner grew up with five siblings, all of them male. All of them skied. I am not sure if they all currently own Onesies.
"That was our main winter recreation," Kueffner said. "We would drive to Vermont and stay at the cheapest place we could find. One time it was a converted apple barn, used to house apples for cider. It had been turned into a (house), with stove and bunks.
His parents even met at a ski resort, Mad River Glenn.
"When they turned 60 they called all of us and told us they were moving to a one bedroom apartment and said, 'Come get your stuff,'" Kueffner said. "We found 11 pairs of skis that no one wanted, of various vintages that were of too old to be of any use. Those got taken to the dump. It was quite a collection."
This "one bedroom apartment" was actually the top floor of a building from which his dad had practiced pediatric medicine. His mom was the curator of education at The Cloisters museum and gardens, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum devoted to medieval art and architecture.
"She ran the Cloisters Festival, which consisted of getting on horses and people in armor running at each other," he said. "That was big fun. That's when all (of us) were useful. The festival is still going and quite a big deal."
The family had dinner together every night, which, Kueffner said, mainly consisted of boiled food, (his mother was not known for her culinary skills), calls from his father's patients' parents and his mother's attempts to tweeze from her boys what they had accomplished.
"If you were so bold as to mention you had (received) the best grade in the class, she would (point out) that she had skipped that grade," Kueffner said.
Indeed, his mother, a World War II refugee from England, was admitted to Smith College on a full ride when she was just 16.
When Kueffner wasn't rough housing with his brothers, (strictly prohibited inside the house), skiing, jumping on the trampoline or sailing, (Kueffner and two other siblings own sailboats today), he was tinkering with organs. The kind you find in churches. The kind that have pipes. Metal pipes.
While in high school, a local church replaced its organ. Kueffner built a smaller one from the pipes of the organ that got the boot.
"It wasn't a standard construction," he said. "I used tennis racket string and little welding rods to pull down the valves."
But it worked, and he lugged it with him to college, at Yale. Kueffner competed in gymnastics and majored in English.
"It's a lot of work at Yale to keep up and not flunk out, so I had to study hard," he said. "I didn't do much else. I did not ski in college. I didn't have a car and it was expensive to get up to Vermont and ski. So for four years I didn't ski."
During college Kueffner spent his summers finishing his parents' apartment, building a windmill in the Merck Forrest in Vermont and playing the organ at Sunday church services in order to procure practice time to prepare for a friends' wedding.
Following college he worked as a paralegal in New York, in a building located at Herman Melville's birth place.
"That's really why I took the job," Kueffner said. "I had become a Herman fan in college; it was a good omen."
Kueffner later moved out West, and began a doctorate program in English Literature at Berkeley. But once he progressed far enough that he was teaching undergraduate classes, he threw in the towel and applied to law school instead.
"It was an easy transition," he said. "I was working in the law library and I knew all the librarians and students. Some of whom now practice up here."
During law school Kueffner flew up to Juneau - in 1981 - to visit a friend. He ended up on an Admiralty Island camping trip with his friend, his friend's wife, the late Supreme Court Justice Allen Compton and Compton's soon-to-be wife. He and Compton hit it off, and Compton offered him a job.
"Once we went back to town we actually had an interview," Kueffner said. "I don't know if I borrowed a tie or not. I had already met him; we had been sleeping in tents with each other."
After completing law school he moved to Juneau, with his car, a Volkswagen Rabbit, packed with his possessions, including a new pair of skis and a Laser sail boat, which starred in one of his first memories as a Juneau resident.
"It's a small 13-foot fiber glass boat," Kueffner said. "A high performance dingy. It goes very fast but has a big sail. I took it out in the Gastineau Channel when it was blowing about 40 miles per hour. It flipped over. (Photographer) Mark Kelly was watching from the shore line and he was trying to take pictures of this imminent disaster."
Kueffner began working for the law firm Faulkner Banfield, where he will celebrate his 29th anniversary this June.
Shortly after he started practicing at the firm, they gave Kueffner a ticket to attend a Perseverance play, "Blithe Spirit." As a fundraiser, there was a raffle, with a trip for two to England as the prize. Kueffner bought one ticket. He won. But, as his now wife Maria Gladziszewski put it, he was, "single, lonely and pathetic."
Two weeks later he attended a Christmas concert at the House of Wickersham. Gladziszewski was there as well. She had been an actor in the play, and sore she hadn't won the tickets.
"There were very few people there so when it came time to sit down I naturally sat next to the prettiest girl there," he said. "At the intermission there were cookies and punch. We were standing around and someone introduced me to someone else and she overheard and said, 'You're Eric Kueffner? You won my prize.' I knew exactly what she was talking about. I turned around and said, 'Well, it is a trip for two and I'm taking auditions.'"
They had a lunch date to discuss the trip, but Kueffner called it off, explaining his atlas was too large to haul to lunch...so how about Gladziszewski come by his place for dinner instead? Pathetic and lonely can, apparently, also be coy and conniving.
Besides a visit to England, the pair added stops in France and Spain.
"I did not ask her to marry me under the Eiffel tower, which she complains about to this day," Kueffner said. "I thought it was too cliché; plus I didn't have a ring. But I did ask her when we came back."
The two are avid sailors, competing in local races every summer.
"No children," Kueffner said, "Just lots of boats: four kayaks, one inflatable, a skiff and a sail boat."
And his four Onesies, in yellow, green, purple and red.
"They are practicable and they look cool, and accent my svelte figure," Kueffner said, slyly. "I've always liked them. They work great, plus you have everything in them. They're very comfortable and look stylish."
When asked what his life philosophy is, he said it came from his wife.
"Just say yes," he said. "Welcome experiences and try not to turn things down."
Amanda Compton is the staff writer for Capital City Weekly. This column appears every other week. If you know someone you'd like to see profiled, she can be reached at email@example.com.