Stephen "Steve" L. Birdsall died July 20, 2013, after a long struggle with progressive supranuclear palsy, a debilitating brain disorder. He was 68 years old.
Born in Cortland, N.Y., he joined the U.S. Navy
at the early age of 17. He completed basic electrical training and, as a member of the Navy Construction Battalion (CB), traveled to Spain and Iceland and did two tours of duty in Vietnam. After his honorable discharge, he worked at various jobs in New York.
Steve met Brenda Cross, a student at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. They were married one week after she graduated in August 1975. Only six months later, they drove the Alaska Highway to begin their life in the "Last Frontier." Based in Anchorage, Brenda decided to put her career as a physical therapist on hold and travel with Steve who was working with the public health service.
They lived in Unalakleet and traveled to other villages along the west coast of Alaska for two years. Steve and Brenda moved to North Pole in 1978, where they bought their first home and started their family.
After working on Fort Wainwright and later as a state electrical inspector, Steve started his own business, Birdsall Electric Inc. This was the beginning of other businesses to come. In the early '80s, Steve and Brenda became interested in Skiland, volunteering on weekends, and eventually moving to Skiland and becoming operators of the ski area. As Ski Inc., they leased the area from Skiland. Ski Inc. installed a chair lift in 1992 and developed the ski area, making it what it is today, "The Home of the Farthest North Chair Lift in North America, Mt. Aurora Skiland," according to a ski reporter
Steve liked to take on big and challenging projects. Once the chair lift at Skiland was operational, he moved the Old FE Fairbanks Creek Camp bunkhouse to Cleary Summit near Skiland. He and his family operated it as Mt. Aurora Fairbanks Creek Lodge for 15 years.
In addition to his wife, Brenda, he leaves behind three sons, Eric (from a previous marriage), of Rochester, N.Y.: Ryan and Allison and their three children, Bryce, Rylee and Layne, of Palmer; and Troy and Aubrey, and their daughter, Ella, of Fairbanks.
He is also survived by his brother, Ron, of Marathon, N.Y.; and his three sisters, Donna Inman, of Elmira, N.Y.; Rosemary Setford, of Hudson, Fla.; and Betty Bell, of Rose Hill, N.C.
Private family services were held on Saturday, July 27, 2013, at Skiland. A celebration honoring Steve's life is planned for the spring at Skiland. Details will be posted at a later date. The family is especially grateful to Michelle Mendez and her family of the Serenity Home for their loving care of Steve during the last years of his life.
Donations in Steve's name can be made to the J. Michael Carroll Center: C/O The Hospital Foundation, 1650 Cowles St., Fairbanks, AK 99701. Arrangements entrusted to Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home.