Story last updated at 6/4/2014 - 1:57 pm
Ronald "Ron" Dippold came to Alaska in April 1964, just weeks after the Good Friday earthquake. He was passionate about skiing and first aid, and it showed: he volunteered with the Juneau Ski Patrol and the Red Cross for more than five decades.
On Saturday, May 31, friends celebrated his life at Eaglecrest Ski Area, a place he was instrumental in establishing. Dippold and friend and fellow ski patroller Robert C. Janes were honored at Eaglecrest earlier this year, when patrollers and friends performed a memorial run at the end of the ski season.
Dippold came to Alaska as a U.S. Forest Service employee in 1963, and "they liked him so much they asked him to stay," said Elisabeth Dippold, his wife.
He worked for the Forest Service from 1964 to 1998 in timber management and other areas. Before that, he spent four years in the Navy and became an expert in aerial photography - he was one of the first to photograph the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam, Elisabeth said.
One of his projects for the Forest Service was around the Kuskokwim River. He'd fly or hike 10 to 20 miles into the forest and count the number and kinds of trees in the area.
While his federal service was long and appreciated, one of the things Dippold is most known for is his contribution to Eaglecrest Ski Area.
"He learned skiing here (in Juneau)" Elisabeth said. "The first thing he did was get skis."
Back then, in Juneau, people skied at a place called Third Cabin, now called Dan Moller cabin.
Rope tows connected the first, second and third cabins; skiers also used a sno-Cat to get from place to place for a while.
Elisabeth said she had to replace her gloves every year when she used the rope tow - it would burn through.
Friend Craig Lindh arrived in Juneau in 1967. He met Dippold and got into skiing soon after.
"It was a pretty limited ski area because ... it was too steep getting up there to make a winter road possible. I urged, along with others, to look for a better place," Lindh said.
Dippold, Lindh, Janes, Sigurd "Sig" Olson and several others scouted locations for a ski area, eventually picking Eaglecrest, then known as Fish Creek Drainage, as a bigger area and one with more potential.
At the time, just getting a road up to Eaglecrest was a challenge, Lindh said. But it didn't take long for the ski area to take off.
Dippold served for a half century on the ski patrol. He also taught first aid classes until 2012, when he got sick.
"He always said 'Always do your best - it doesn't matter what the outcome is, as long as you do your best, it's good," Elisabeth said.
He joined the Red Cross almost immediately after arriving in Juneau, she said. He served as the Southeast Regional Director for the Alaska Division of the Red Cross for years, and held every Red Cross CPR and First Aid Instructor Trainer certification available.
Roger Rettig, disaster response specialist with the Red Cross, said there was no one that exceeded Dippold's five decade tenure as a volunteer with the organization.
"None that I'm aware of even come close," he said. "He was a real rarity anywhere in the state. ... He was well known and well loved ... well liked, and well respected."
Former National Ski Patrol Representative Mick Lowry said the same was true for the Juneau Ski Patrol. "I don't see anyone catching him," he said of Dippold's tenure as a volunteer.
Though first aid was Dippold's specialty, he also taught some avalanche classes, Lowry said. A few years ago, a new, 900-page first aid book came out, Lowry said. Dippold sat through 108 hours of classes just to familiarize himself with it.
"And I always like to think he could have written the book," Lowry said. "He was selfless. He never sought out praise ... but he definitely deserved a lot."
Back in its early days at 3rd cabin, the ski patrol did more than patrol. They also ran the lift, said friend Del Carnes, who was on the ski patrol with Dippold.
"He was always a go-getter. Always willing to help out," Carnes said. "He was just a great guy."
Sean Edwards joined the ski patrol when he was 15, when he took first aid courses taught by Dippold.
"He was very old school but he was ... in all-volunteer groups, there (are) a handful of people who do a much larger share of the work. Ron was definitely amongst that group. He always had a good attitude and a good smile. He just kept on going . As far as I know, he patrolled probably at least eight or 10 years longer than anybody else ever has. He just set an example," he said.
He was "truly a pioneer," according to his obituary, migrating from his August 20, 1935 birthplace of Cheektowaga, N.Y. to Juneau. He died Jan. 17 of this year at age 78.
"He was a steady man. He had a good sense of humor, but he didn't waste time with fools," Lindh said. "He was just a wonderful man and we're going to miss him a lot."