After writing a tribute to Clem Rawert, who owned and operated Clem’s Backpacking Sports for 25 years in Fairbanks from 1970-95, in Thursday’s outdoors section, I received an email from Matt VanEnkevort, who grew up in Fairbanks.
VanEnkevort, who is now CEO of Marin Bicycles in California, had fond memories of Clem, who passed away at the age of 78 on Sunday, and he agreed to let me share them with you. Here’s his email:
I wanted to thank you for the great article on Clem.
Like many in Fairbanks, Clem's was where I bought most of my climbing gear in the 70's and early 80's, until my sister Roxanne started working for Whizzy at Beaver sports.
All that you said about Clem's reluctance to take his customers money is so true. I would save up my cash for a pair of ascenders, and he would tell me use prussiks instead, "they're cheaper, and you need to know how to use them" he would say. I protested that I had money in my hand, and wanted them, but he wouldn't take it. He was right, knowing how to use basic gear prepared me later in my climbing career to deal with sticky situations using basic skills.
Clem helped our family out with our XC skiing as well. All 5 of us skied competitively, and Clem helped us all. He was a resource for back country lore, climbing advice, and just a wonderful guy to hang out with. Years later, I moved to Seattle, and started working in the bike industry. I ran into him at a trade show in Las Vegas, and he asked me if I would consider taking over his shop. I regret to this day that I didn't take him up on it. My career has moved forward, and I am in California running a company now, but my heart is back in that little store, reeking of pine tar, and gear.
I miss him.