The McGilvary children are reminded regularly of the impact their parents have had on the Fairbanks community for the past 60 years.
“I’ll be working in the emergency room and people will say, ‘Oh, your dad was my coach’ or “How is your mom doing?’” said paramedic Shawn McGilvary, the youngest of seven McGilvary children. “It’s crazy growing up in this town, how many people know your parents. It’s fun being able to look back and see their impact on the community.”
The McGilvarys — Frank and D.A. — celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary on March 3. They still live in Fairbanks.
The couple met in Fairbanks in 1961. D.A. had just traveled north from California, intending to stay for a year of “adventure teaching,” said her daughter Susan Yanish. Frank came north a little earlier from Louisville, Kentucky and worked for the highway department, according to daughter Kristin Trieglaff.
A mutual friend arranged a blind date on Sept. 17, 1961. Marriage and the routine of life and family soon followed. Seven McGilvarys joined the brood over the years. The oldest, Randy died in a car accident in 1995. The other siblings include Susan Yanish of Fairbanks, Joe McGilvary of Fairbanks, Caroline McGilvary of Oregon; Kristin Trieglaff of California, Monica Smith of Oregon and Shawn McGilvary of Fairbanks.
Today, the McGilvary clan also includes 22 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren (there are two on the way).
“Even though we are kind of spread out, because my parents stayed together, we come together with them,” Susan Yanish said. “So then we’re able to reconnect. When we get back together, we just remember the fun times.”
There were plenty of those.
When Susan was a child, her mother got her hands on a real live goose, an effort to teach her children about farm animals.
“When we were going home, the goose was in a burlap bag in the back of the station wagon,” she said. “It got out of the bag while we were driving home, flapping its wings. We thought it was trying to kill us.
“I remember the chaos,” she laughed.
“Mom would do silly stuff like gun the car when we got to the railroad tracks, so we would catch a little air,” she said. “Dad was appalled.”
Frank McGilvary was a longtime youth coach and very active in community activities himself.
Susan Yanish was more of a bookworm than an athlete, but her dad insisted she play basketball. Her sisters — who are all taller than her — followed suit and played basketball and softball and volleyball.
“It was kind of like the McGilvary girl dynasty,” she said.
They all developed a strong work ethic from that experience.
Both Frank and D.A. McGilvary devoted countless hours to the community, volunteering and sharing their expertise with numerous local groups.
“Although they were frugal with their own lifestyle, they were very generous with their assets,” said daughter Kristin. “Even as their own lives were busy with so many children and activities, they still managed to volunteer at school, church, and in the community.”
“My parents have always been good role models,” said Shawn. They also made it very clear what life priorities should be, he said. God, family, and then work and all other things. When they were among three winners of the Nenana Ice Classic in 1982, the first thing they did with their winnings was donate to their church.
They were good teachers and stewards. They were also the kind of parents who would get up with Shawn at 6 a.m. on bad weather days to help him with his two daily newspaper routes.
The McGilvary siblings recalled that Frank McGilvary still reads the newspaper every day. When they were young, he would tease the kids, doing what they call “reading between the lines.”
He would start reading stories aloud, especially if they were about his children’s sports teams, only he would make up silly fun details instead of reading the real story.
“Whoever the guilty party was, would invariably say: ‘Where does it say that!’” recalled Susan. “His practice of reading the paper every day has never varied.”
The family remains close and expects to commemorate this special 59th anniversary with their parents, even if it is just by Zoom, due to COVID-19. Frank and D.A. McGilvarys did not know about this anniversary tribute in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. It will be another special memory for a longtime Fairbanks family.
Being in a big family is “pretty enjoyable,” Shawn said.
“One of the blessings they have given us is each other.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.