Homer man dies trekking in Patagonia

A longtime Homer man known for his infectious laughter and sense of adventure died Feb. 7 in a hiking accident in Patagonia, Argentina.

According to reports from the Argentine newspaper, Chaltén Today, Michael Feraudo Jr., 60, apparently fell sometime after 12:30 p.m. local time while hiking on the Rio Piedras Blancas trail in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, or Glacier National Park, near El Chaltén, Argentina. 

Feraudo landed in a creek and was caught by a current, where he drowned. A friend hiking with him could not save him, the paper reported. Rescuers arrived several hours later and recovered his body.

Homer friends will hold a remembrance gathering to honor Feraudo at 4 p.m. Sunday at Alice’s Champagne Palace.

An email about Feraudo’s death from a longtime friend, author and photographer Tom Reed, spread quickly throughout Homer and Alaska. Reed wrote “The Granite Avatars of Patagonia,” a series of photos and essays about the area based on a trip Reed took in 2007, and advised Feraudo on his trek. People who wrote Reed back almost all said “how thoughtful and kind and caring and gentle Mike was,” Reed said.

Feraudo had taken a copy of “The Granite Avatars” to Fernando Garcia, a friend of Reed’s featured in the book, and pieced together some of Feraudo’s last days from correspondence with Garcia.

A photo taken by Garcia shows Feraudo standing in front of Cerro Torre, one of the mountains Reed calls “the granite avatars.” Reed said he thinks Feraudo then hiked on a path he suggested to the base of Monte Fitz, another spectacular mountain, and north to Rio Electrico. Feraudo made a side trip along Rio Piedras Blancas to see Laguna Piedras Blancas, or the lake of the white mountains, and died along the trail.

“He died in a spectacular place, and he had to have had those emotions of wonder that I had,” Reed said. “That must have been his mindset, his dominant emotion during the last two or three days of his life. He must have been totally awe-inspired and filled with wonder and amazement.”

“We do find some peace in the fact that some of the last sites he was at were so amazing,” said Feraudo’s sister, Marianne Mitchell.

Patagonia was the first part of a trip Feraudo planned that would continue on a sea voyage from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, across the Antarctic Circle and to the Antarctica Peninsula. Naturalists and guides Carmen and Conrad Field planned to meet Feraudo in Argentina with some other Homer people. Carmen Field said the trip would go on as planned.

“We’ll honor him down there at the circle somehow,” she said.

The oldest of five children, Feraudo was born June 20, 1954, in Rockville Center, N.Y., to Mary and Michael Feraudo Sr. He grew up in Suffolk County, Long Island, and graduated with a bachelor of science in horticulture from the State University of New York, Cobleskill. He came to Alaska in 1979, where he worked as a surveyor out of Ketchikan with the U.S. Forest Service in the Tongass National Forest.

Reed and two other Homer friends, Bonnie and Gary Betley, met Feraudo there, all to work in the Tongass. Reed said he hit it off right away with Feraudo. The group separated after the summer, kept in touch, and eventually reunited in Homer. Reed and the Betleys both credited Feraudo with luring them to Homer and showing them the amazing beauty of the area. 

“Mike was the first one to discover Homer and told Gary and Tom and me about it,” said Bonnie Betley. “He was the one who convinced us Homer was the place.”

Gary Betley, Reed and Feraudo also worked as surveyors on the Bradley Lake Project.

“Mike was a great guy to work with. We just stayed positive, focused, had a good time no matter what was around us,” Betley said. “He was wonderful in that way.”

The group helped each other build their houses. Gary Betley remembered frequent trips camping and fishing.

“You always had an adventure with Mike … He was always a spark. He was never boring,” Betley said. “When things got bad, his attitude didn’t get bad. That’s what made things good.”

Reed remembered Feraudo as “a jolly guy.”

“His life was so infectious. If he was laughing, everyone was laughing, too,” Reed said. “When he lit up with excitement, it was just like you had to laugh.”

Feraudo’s sister, Marianne Mitchell, said her brother embraced Alaska.

“He pretty much fell in love with it,” she said. “He was really happy there. He felt at home there. He loved the people and all that Alaska had to offer him.”

Feraudo is survived by his parents, Mary and Michael Feraudo Sr., of Lake City, Fla.; and his siblings, Lorraine Zarrella, Carol Rossmeissl, Marianne Mitchell, Gary Feraudo, and seven nieces and two nephews.

Mitchell said the family would hold a memorial mass for Feraudo in the near future in New York, and plan a memorial in Homer at a time and place to be announced sometime in April.

Feraudo was preceded in death by his first wife, Renate, who died in 1996. Bonnie Betley said they were married at Gull Rock in 1985, and Renate’s ashes were spread there. The family plans also to spread Feraudo’s ashes at Gull Rock.

“He will ultimately be reunited with Renate,” Mitchell said. “We’re happy about that. He truly missed her.”

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.