The sign on the power rake used to maintain the soccer fields at Davis Road says "Powered by Sam Woodke." It's a small tribute for all the things Sam did to support youth sports in Fairbanks.
In ways both big and small, Sam Woodke energized youth sports in Fairbanks for decades.
The retired Fairbanks banker died March 30 in Yuma, Ariz. at age 84. As the father of three boys, Mark, Don, and John, Sam was involved in many local sports groups and often served as treasurer, which was natural, given his background in accounting. After two years in the U.S. Navy, he studied accounting at the University of Iowa.
He and his wife Ruth moved to Fairbanks in 1968 and he became a vice president at Mt. McKinley Bank. Their sons were ages 1, 5 and 7.
In short order his oldest son began playing Little League baseball and Sam became a fixture in youth sports.
He helped get Little Dribblers basketball started with Jim Williams and it was a big hit. For about a decade, he was a board member and treasurer, a job in which he would order team jerseys and trophies and persuade the school principals to open the gyms at night.
He was also a board member and treasurer for Little League and Babe Ruth baseball. Sam would find sponsors, recruit umpires, handle registration and help get the equipment and uniforms. He also handled the cash and supplies for the concession stands.
There is a youth tennis tournament known as the "Sam Woodke Junior Tennis Championships" in recognition of his contributions. Just about every sport could follow suit as he assisted with all of them. He helped out with the Alaska Goldpanners, lining up summer parents for the ballplayers and helping them enjoy their time in Fairbanks. He was the treasurer of the Goldpanners until 2011.
Sam helped organize alpine ski racing at Alyeska and assisted with taking teams to the Alyeska ski resort for several years.
Sam and Jim Dieringer and founded Fairbanks Youth Sports and he became a board member of the Fairbanks Youth Sports Foundation, both of which have done great things for young people for many years.
The photo of the rake at the soccer field was in his room at the nursing home in Arizona. He was proud of the picture, his wife Ruth says, and he showed it to everyone who came to visit.
When the soccer players are running around this summer and the fields are full, the operation will be "Powered by Sam Woodke."