Justin Fantasia Memorial Run 4 Rock raises funds for historic lighthouse

Racing for memory and good cause

Justin Fantasia shown running in the original Eldred Rock Lighthouse Run 4 the Rock Foghorn Race, which as since been renamed to the Justin Fantasia Memorial Run 4 the Rock in his honor. (Courtesy photo / Sue York)

Juneau runners came together Saturday to celebrate the life of Justin Fantasia while also raising funds for the Eldred Rock Lighthouse in the first Justin Fantasia Memorial Run 4 the Rock at Pioneer Road, formerly known as the Run 4 Rock Foghorn Race.

The top male runner to finish the 10K race was Steve Ricci who came in with a time of 43 minutes and 4 seconds. Kseniia Yarova was the top female and fourth overall with a finishing time of 47:05. For the 5K race, Arnold Liebelt was the top male with a 30:46 time and Lauren Heide was top female and second overall with a 32:43 finish time.

Though race director and executive director of the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association, Sue York said attendance was lower this time around than events from previous years, it was still well attended, raising $845, which she said primarily goes towards covering transportation costs for upcoming work trips to make repairs within the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, such as fixing the lantern room, bathroom, boathouse, and engine room where foghorns used to be.

“These funds typically cover transportation costs because that’s our biggest challenge and the biggest part of our budget because it’s fuel to get out there on boats or for helicopters, York said. “So, generally, the money we raise in local events goes towards what we call operating costs, but 80% of our operating costs are transportation. Our fundraisers significantly dropped during COVID, so whereas in 2019 when we started this race, it was our first annual Foghorn race, but now we’ve of course changed that to be a memorial for Justin.”

Fantasia, 43, passed on June 20 from glioblastoma brain cancer. There wasn’t much Fantasia didn’t do in terms of volunteering within the community and using his skills and knowledge to help better the lives of others, according to York. He was an assistant professor of construction technology at the University of Alaska Southeast, a member of the Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association board, a governor appointee to the Serve Alaska Commission and served as a volunteer board member for the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association, as well as fulfilling many other roles and titles.

“Justin was very community-minded and used his skills as a construction expert to teach, manage, lead and to help plan,” York said. “So, those skills he gave of his own free time to help organizations such as Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association, but he was involved in many, many more community efforts, and he was working and teaching right up until he couldn’t any longer. He was just a really amazing person; he knew all of Southeast and he gave up his time and energy whenever he could. He was helping us load fresh drinking water and going to Home Depot for us right up until he couldn’t any longer.”

Although numbers have been down since COVID-19, York said these types of fundraisers are important to smaller organizations that seek large grants for repair projects. Funds for most of the organization’s operating costs come from local fundraisers and memberships, which helps pay for insurance, fuel, and general supplies for the lighthouse. Marine Exchange of Alaska serves as the primary financial backing supporter for the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association, as well as their main mode of transportation.

Located roughly 17 miles south of Haines, the Eldred Rock Lighthouse is the oldest in the state and has been added to the National Registry of Historic Places. York said the Preservation Association has been hard at work with renovations and hopes to have new information for the public this fall.

“Our nonprofit is based out of Haines, we don’t have an office and so it’s just a small nonprofit that was formed in 2014,” York said. “We’re a combination of directors and officers from Haines and Juneau, and we’re just recently getting Skagway involved because we try to associate contracts for repairs from all three communities because the lighthouse may be 17 miles south of Haines and is definitely considered their lighthouse, but, of course, you pass it going up the ferry to Skagway. We are, by the way, working and living in it (the lighthouse) now, which we’re excited about. We’ve really come a long way in the last two years.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com

Eldred Rock Lighthouse featured in this photo, is located 17 miles south of Haines and is the oldest original lighthouse in the state of Alaska. It is also a part of the National Registry of Historic Places. (Courtesy Photo / Sue York)

Eldred Rock Lighthouse featured in this photo, is located 17 miles south of Haines and is the oldest original lighthouse in the state of Alaska. It is also a part of the National Registry of Historic Places. (Courtesy Photo / Sue York)

Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association volunteers from Juneau, Haines, and Skagway pose while out for a work party. (Courtesy Photo / Sue York)

Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association volunteers from Juneau, Haines, and Skagway pose while out for a work party. (Courtesy Photo / Sue York)