Keith Dennis McCavit

Keith Dennis McCavit

Born on the Vernal Equinox in Edgerton, Ohio, our husband and father completed his earthly journey in his beloved Great North Land during the Winter Solstice.

Ever an ardent Indiana University Hoosier basketball fan, Dad grew up in Elkhart, Indiana. Elkhart was and is known for being a manufacturing center of wind instruments, their public-school music program well known throughout the country. Dad began cornet lessons at the young age of six. His amazing talent led to his winning a world competition at the age of twelve and earning the honor of soloing with the Chicago Symphony at Soldier Field. Until recently, Dad would just pick up his horn and play along with anything classical that happened to be on the radio. However, unarguably the best experience of his youth was meeting his fellow high school bandmate and future wife, Ruth. Following their undergraduate years at Indiana University, Mom taught elementary school while Dad attended IU Dental School. A fortuitous meeting with then–Alaska Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening led to Mom and Dad and their 2-year-old daughter moving to Alaska in 1959. The new state was in need of dentists and Dad, already being an eager and successful hunter and fisherman, immediately began planning the move North. Dad set up a dental practice in Palmer that would continue until his retirement in 1995. Dad’s dental skills and generosity are appreciated to this day by his many patients and colleagues. His expertise led to many years on the Alaska State Dental Board of Examiners making certain that anyone who wanted to practice dentistry in the great state of Alaska had the hands and knowledge that Alaskans deserved for their dental care. His demand of excellence extended to every aspect of his life – especially to his family – that continues today. Anything that was worth doing, was worth doing well. If you thought that you had nothing to do, the windows could always use washing.

In 1962 Mom and Dad purchased property on Wasilla Lake. Soon after, a railroad strike led to an auction of the cargo that resulted in the purchase of the Swiss Chalet kit that continues to be the family home. As the instructions were in Swiss German many construction stories ensued. The builders were successful as two weeks after moving in, the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake struck. The house withstood the quake and, with its gas stove, fed many friends and neighbors who had no way to cook during the many days of no electricity.

By now a family of five, lake living became our life. Dad’s Piper PA12 on floats and skis was a fixture. His love of flying extended to his earning his advanced glider pilot license and led to both sons also becoming pilots. Boats of all shapes and sizes and the first motor-propelled raft on Styrofoam pontoons kept us all on the lake from breakup to freeze up. Hunting, fishing, gardening – whatever you caught or grew you ate. The McCavit greenhouse and garden and flowers were well known to anyone meeting Dad during the growing season. Armloads of fresh produce, seeds and seedlings were bestowed on those fortunate enough to “come by the greenhouse.” Incredible tomatoes, basil, green beans and cucumbers were carefully grown each year from seeds collected from the vegetables and herbs that made the taste test successfully. The huge garden provided Alaskan crops of every kind; his annual sauerkraut was anticipated by all of us.

Because of our mother’s wanderlust, our parents loved to travel. Dad usually had to be dragged along initially, but once away loved the adventures. Many happy extended – family trips to Mexico and Hawaii are recalled by all of us. After we children were grown, their travels extended beyond the continent to, primarily, Europe. Hotels were not how they preferred to travel. Mom expertly chose the small areas of Switzerland and southern France to either house trade or stay in a rental home or apartment and become part of the community for many weeks at a time. Dad happily joined in many grape and olive harvests and lifelong friends were made at the harvest festival dinners. Attending small musical gatherings resulted in Dad bringing home a twelve foot four-inch-long Alpenhorn to his Swiss Chalet. Wasilla Lake residents were often given a recital of perfectly played Alpenhorn tunes from the front lawn. Grandchildren and great grandchildren that were old enough to blow the horn also had front lawn lessons.

Dad will be remembered for his amazing cooking skills of all things unusual and most things delicious. Hunting trips resulted in preparation of all parts of an animal. Dad’s mother contributed to his love of cooking the unusual by always bringing up Snapping Turtle meat, and a live Snapping Turtle at least once, from Indiana on her many visits to Alaska. Snapping Turtle and gravy dinners will not be forgotten, nor will we forget the preparation of Peking Duck – the duck necessarily hanging at the end of the kitchen to age as part of the preparation.

Mom and Dad were married 66 ½ years, aiding and abetting each other as only they could in making an incredibly beautiful life for themselves and so many others in their chosen home of Alaska for over 63 years. Because of his hard work and vision, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember PopPop, each with their unique perspective and lessons learned.

Dad was predeceased by his parents Marvin and Julia, his sisters Patricia and Marcia, and his brother Tim. He is survived by his brother Kim and wife Marcia (St. Joseph, Michigan) and sister-in-law Linda (Granger, Indiana), and many nieces and nephews.

Dad’s immediate surviving family includes his dearest Ruth, daughter Cindy and husband Con (Salem, Oregon), son Scott and wife JoyLynn (Wasilla), son JC and wife Brenda (Wasilla Lake), grandchildren Bryn (Sam), Caitlin (Tim), Conor (Ashley), Katie (Nate), Max, and Chase, great grandchildren Con, Francis, Mia, David, Michael, Clara, Murray, Abrahm and a new arrival expected in March.

The words of longtime friend Fred Machetanz following many a wonderful dinner, “Life is good in the Northland!” are especially fitting for our Alaskan Sourdough who made his life as good as it gets. May we all be as hardworking and fortunate enough to live as long and as well as Dad.

A private remembrance will take place in Summer 2022.

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