For Valentine’s Day: A love letter to Homer

Originally I was going to call this piece “why I’ve fallen in love with Homer,” but it’s more than that. In my three and a half years of living here, I’ve been up the Kenai Peninsula and as far down the head of the bay as Kachemak Selo. I know I will never be able to see all of the spectacular beauty of the Kenai. 

I came to Homer as an educational coach for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Project GRAD in the 2011-12 school year. The program encourages students who are “off the grid” to graduate from high school. As the GRAD coach at Voznesenka and Razdolna schools, I learned about the beautiful Russian Old Believer culture. At both schools, the staff, students and parents helped me feel welcome in my new home.

Another thing I love about this area is how people here help each other. There have been numerous spaghetti feeds, silent auctions and cash jars for those in need, from my co-worker Hanna’s house burning down, to individuals helping struggling families during the holidays, to the outpouring of support for Angelica Haakenson, who lost both legs in a tragic Christmas car accident.  

I believe that there are five “hubs of Homer”: the Post Office, Safeway, Save-U-More, The Gear Shed and Ulmer’s Drug and Hardware. These places reflect the positive nature of the area as much as the beautiful terrain. 

I was fortunate to be hired on at Ulmer’s in 2012. Almost everyone shops there at one time or another.  As a Homer hub,  this store also is a community center due to the generosity of the owners, Scott and Cathy Ulmer.  I have witnessed several acts of kindness while working at the store, things that keep reinforcing my love for this area and its residents. 

For instance, where else would a nice lady in the community bake cakes for Ulmer’s employees just because she likes us? 

Where else would a customer bring cupcakes to the store to celebrate his dog’s birthday? Well, it wasn’t just any dog, it was Merlin, a sweet mini-Australian Shepherd service dog belonging to Tom Schroeder.  Everyone who knows Merlin loves him, which makes him a minor celebrity around town. Tom, a baker by trade, brought treats to Ulmer’s to share on Merlin’s seventh birthday. Pretty sweet.

Through my job at Ulmer’s I have come in contact with fisherpeople, hippies, homesteaders, Spit rats, artists, musicians and the Coast Guard, whose members who live in the Homer area and keep our waterways safe. Coast Guard members are always respectful — and don’t forget the wonderful “Haunted Hickory!” at Halloween.

I recently bought a home in Anchor Point. My real estate adventure is another reason I love it here. After several false starts, we finally closed in November. My Realtor, Shelly Stradling, worked her tail off for me, and every Realtor I dealt with was friendly, helpful and professional. Even the financial part of buying the house was smooth.  Where else would the vice president of the mortgage company bring balloons to the housewarming? 

I’m not a fan of the cold weather, but there are four distinct seasons and when the nasturtiums bloom until almost November, then I am in the right place. Someone on the radio said “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear,” which I believe is a very true statement. Don’t complain, just put on a coat, hat or gloves and enjoy the ride. 

Finally I, of all people, won a gun in the Friends of the NRA Gun Raffle last November. It is so exciting for many reasons, but mainly because it’s been another way to meet more Homer folks. 

“Homer, Alaska, We’re Here Because We’re Not All There,” says a bumper sticker we sell at Ulmer’s. That statement explains why I fit in here, and why I have really fallen in love with the people of the beautiful Kachemak Bay.  

I love you all. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Susie Killfoile is a retired teacher from Salt Lake City.  She moved here in 2011. She is active in community events and loves to take her dog to the beach.