FAIRBANKS — In June 1986, the News-Miner sent a reporter to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital to do an expose on a proud new dad for Father’s Day.

Reporter Kathi Berry encountered insurance man Peter Kelley and photographer Mike Belrose took a photograph of Kelley cradling his daughter, Whitney, in the hospital room.

Had the investigation been about Mother’s Day, the focus would have been on Sylvia Kelley, Whitney’s proud mom.

In any case, the photo Belrose took became an important family keepsake, so much so that Peter struck a familiar pose at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital the other day.

The occasion was the birth of Whitney’s first child, Roman Harper Thomas, who was born Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m.

“I was excited for Sylvia and for me when Whitney was born,” Peter said of the 1986 photo.

“Now it’s exciting because he is my first grandchild,” he said of the second image.

Interviewed in 1986 about an hour after Whitney’s birth, Peter said he was with Sylvia the whole time, holding her hand. The experience was one of the great thrills of his life.

“I just started yelling at the top of my lungs, ‘It’s a girl. It’s a girl.’ Then I calmed down enough to tell Sylvia it had all its fingers and toes.”

Interviewed Tuesday, Peter said he did not witness the birth of his grandson, but he could hear everything that was going from his post in the hallway. It was also an emotional and thrilling experience.

He said he kept thinking about Whitney as a child and all that has happened in the past 27 years.

“I was outside the delivery room, and I was crying and laughing at the same time. I was thinking of her growing up, and when I heard her scream it reminded me of when she was a kid, screaming at her brothers,” he said.

Whitney is a Fairbanks hair stylist. The baby’s dad, Ryan Thomas, 29, is a laborer who recently got his real estate license and plans to start a new career. While they were both born and raised in Fairbanks, they plan to move to California in the months ahead and pursue opportunities there.

Their son was born at 6:15 a.m. Sunday, tipping the scales at 5 lbs., 12 oz. He was 19.25 inches long.


CHILDREN AT PLAY: Delta has a new playground, thanks to dozens of volunteers and a community fundraising campaign that generated enough cash, in-kind contributions and other assistance to get it all put together in a work party that extended for three days.

Dawn Grossman, a member of the Delta City Council, said the equipment, which has an estimated value of $100,000, was donated by a Fort Wainwright contractor responsible for taking it down and making room on the post for a new parking lot.

The catch was that Delta had to arrange to transport the playground to Delta and get it set up. Whitestone Farms stepped in to move the materials to Delta, where many hands joined the task of assembling all the pieces and setting it up.

The 10-year-old equipment is designed for use by children ages 5-12, Grossman said. Before this, Delta only had a playground for younger kids.

The City of Delta provided $10,000 for the effort, while the rest came from donations.

“There were many community members who took time off from work or came on a long lunch hour. There were four council members, a local carpenter, an engineer, a few mechanics and other skilled laborers, volunteer firefighters and office workers,” Grossman said.

“The weather was sunny, warm and beautiful, and the park was full of smiles. All day long vehicles would slow down as they drove by to check on the progress.

“Every day families with children would come to the park to watch our progress. It reminded me of that wonderful children’s story ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel MaryAnn.’”

She said on the day they finished spreading gravel and wiping down the equipment, a child on the original playground nearby asked, “May we play on it now?”

“I was delighted to respond ‘Yes, please do!’ A crowd of kids came running over and swarmed the new playground.”

“It was a wonderful community experience. Well done, Delta Junction. This is why I have lived here for 32 years! Thank you,” Grossman said.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMdermot.