Tiffany Sargent Hallquist chose to wear her father’s size-11 boots to his memorial as not only a way to feel close to him again but to also remember the big shoes he’s left to fill.
“He was a storyteller and the best fisherman you’ve ever met in your life,” Hallquist said. “He loved hunting, and made the best moose jerky you’ve ever had in your life. He was just a big presence.”
Daniel Eugene Sargent, 75, died on Sunday, Feb. 7 in Anchorage from complications during surgery. To honor the life of the man often described by family as being larger than life, there was a memorial held for Daniel on Saturday at Raven Shelter at Auke Village Recreation Area. Daniel’s flannel shirts lined the window frames of the shelter for anyone to take, a fitting gesture for someone who his family said was known for giving people the shirt off of his back.
“He was a flannel shirt and jeans kind of guy,” said Hallquist. “I went through and gathered up a bunch from his house. I’ve been wearing all of his clothes. He was my best friend; he was my rock.”
Hallquist and her mother Lavena knew they wanted to do something special to honor not only the father and husband that Daniel was, but also the Vietnam veteran that he was. When a 21-gun salute proved to not be in the cards, the Sargent family turned to the next and perhaps best idea: a volley of fire. With Daniel being one of the founding members of the Juneau Archery Club, Hallquist and her mother decided the best and most appropriate way for the family to pay respects was with a row of archers shooting flaming arrows into the water.
“My dad worked for the Alaska Marine Highways in the gift shop with a sign that read, ‘bow hunting spoken here.’ So, I know he would have loved this, to see everybody together like this, I can feel it, he’s here with us.”
Hallquist, a kindergarten teacher in Oregon and the only child of Daniel and Lavena, said she had plans of coming back to Juneau this summer for her 30-year high school reunion with her kids so they could spend time with their “Grandpa turkey.” Though plans unfortunately changed, Hallquist said it was heartwarming to see so many people come out to pay their respects and to see the clear impact her father had on so many lives.
“It feels good, he would have loved it, but it’s empty in a way because he’s not here,” Hallquist said. “I told everyone that I want to say I’m broken hearted, but my heart is so full because I feel him so much, but I miss him.”
Daniel had been retired from the Alaska Marine Highway System for 20 years, and Lavena explained, it was through a chance encounter at work that the two would strike up a friendship that would eventually turn into a marriage. Lavena said Raven Shelter was picked as the location for the memorial for sentimental reasons as it was the place the two would share their first picnic during their first year of marriage in 1978.
“The first year we were married on the first day of snow, we went and got some pastrami, some fresh bread and a bottle of wine,” Lavena said. “We walked along the first snow and had a picnic here, just me and him, nobody else was around. About a month ago, we talked about how we should do that again, so that’s why everybody’s here today because that’s what he wanted to do.”
Despite Saturday being cold and gray, plenty of colorful stories of Daniel shared by the fire kept the evening warm. Daniel’s niece Jenna Cameron shared memories of Daniel’s generosity and how she used to bring her son up to Alaska for visits every summer for Daniel-guided fishing trips.
“He was such a good man. He had a big heart, he loved everybody, he would give the shirt off of his back for anybody,” said Cameron. “He would literally do anything for anybody, he would stop and help people a lot, anything like that. I came up every year to Alaska with my family to go fishing since my son was nine, he’s 17 now. He would always give him a choice if he wanted to go to Disneyland or Alaska and every time, he’d pick Alaska. We’d go out on the boat and go fishing, he made a knife for my son and my husband, just a good man.”
While saying goodbye is never easy, Lavena said she was happy in knowing it was the type of send off Daniel would have wanted. Alaska has been Daniel’s home ever since he first saw it traveling from Fort Lewis to Anchorage during the war; Lavena said he always talked about the promise he made to himself that if he managed to get through the war he was moving to Alaska for the rest of his days and as his friends and family would say, in true Daniel fashion, he lived up to his word.
“Daniel will always be a part of the community. He loved Alaska, he loved the Alaska lifestyle, he loved the Alaska Marine Highway,” Lavena said. “He loved me, he loved his family and he loved his friends.”
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org.