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David Jacobson starts fund to help Access Alaska help others

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Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012 11:30 pm | Updated: 11:23 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — David Jacobson, who held almost every job at Access Alaska over the years, wants to let you know about one of his last wishes.

It’s a good one.

Jacobson, who has been battling pancreatic cancer for nearly two years, retired from Access Alaska in 2008. His health is failing.

Though he is legally blind, he has lived an independent life in Fairbanks, thanks in large part to Access Alaska and the people he has worked with.

He hitchhiked to Alaska in the early 1970s and the first person he met was Sandy Jamieson, so he became a log builder. Because of a brain tumor, he lost most of his vision in 1974. 

A lot of people first saw him in those days hitchhiking with his cello on the Old Nenana Highway.

He has added much to our community during the years and has been a strong advocate for disability rights. The photo shows him at the annual march in Fairbanks that calls attention to programs for the disabled. The message on the sign is, “Services for people with disabilities builds community,” which became one of the most important themes of his work with Access Alaska.

In particular, his experience made him a mentor for others who had to learn ways to cope with brain injuries.

Here is his letter to the community about the Jacobson Family Fund:

Dear Friends:

I can die in peace knowing I have lived a rich, productive, meaningful life but it could easily have been otherwise.

In my early 20s I was living my Alaskan dream when suddenly a brain tumor and subsequent operation left me brain injured and legally blind. It left me unemployed and without confidence or worth. I felt like a burden to society and didn’t see how I could ever find my place as a valued, productive member of any community.

Fortunately, in the “Help Wanted” advertisements I saw an ad for a job at Access Alaska which suggested that not only might I learn valuable skills so that I could live independently, but I might also be able to help other disabled people. Hurrah! Somebody wanted me! Thus began my 22-year involvement with Access Alaska, the agency which helped transform me into a productive, maturing and confident adult.

My life is now coming full circle and I wish to thank Access Alaska for helping me achieve what I was capable of. I wish to set up an endowment fund so that Access Alaska can continue to provide services into the future.

I'm asking you to help and here’s the reason why:

My story is not unusual. Countless Fairbanksans have similar stories of how Access Alaska taught them that their lives were not defined by their disabilities but by their capabilities. But here is the untold story. Each of these people becomes part of a powerful force which helps transform our entire community. All of us, not just disabled persons are the beneficiaries of our strengthened community.

Just as it difficult to draw a line between what helps one specific individual versus what benefits an entire community, it is difficult to draw a line between “the disabled” and the rest of us. Unfortunately, many of us, as we age, will make that distinction tenuous. Access Alaska provides resources and teaches skills to a wide range of people and the ripples thereby created touch us all.

I challenge you to give generously to create an endowment for Access Alaska and I pledge that I will match your donation up to $100,000.

Between us, my friends, we can ensure that Access Alaska remains fiscally able to continue its wonderful work into the future.

To donate or to find out more about Access Alaska, please call Doug Toelle, Access Alaska Director of Advocacy and Development at 907-479-7940 or mail your donation to Access Alaska, 526 Gaffney Road, Suite 100, ATTN Doug Toelle, Fairbanks, AK 99701. You can also go to to donate.

— David Jacobson


COACH T: Teacher and coach Joe Tremarello died Wednesday night at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in the presence of his wife of 55 years, Ann, the retired registrar of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Joe T, as he was known, was a star basketball player in his youth at the high school and college levels and a star coach in later years at Lathrop High School and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In the spring, after the school board voted to name the gym floor at Lathrop in his honor, he said, “I’m certainly honored and I'm somewhat speechless.”

“I love the school,” he said. “Lathrop is something special to me.”

He said he enjoyed every team he coached over his life, but he had his favorites, including the 1964 team that won the state championship.

“Overall, I loved the kids. And even when we were 11-10 at Lathrop it was one of the most enjoyable seasons I had because the kids weren’t that great of a team, but they worked hard and did as well as they could,” he said.

Dermot Cole can be reached at or 459-7530.

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