In praise of second opinions

I’m in Anchorage at the moment. The unfortunate reason for the trip is to attend the memorial service for an old friend, Stefanie Ludwig. She passed away far too young from multiple myeloma, which sadly was misdiagnosed until it was too late. Get a second opinion, people, if the treatment for the original one isn’t doing any good. Doctors aren’t perfect. Just ask my mom, the retired pathologist.

Stef was a great person. She was the review archaeologist for the Alaska State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for many years, and did that difficult job in a sensible and efficient fashion, with little recognition, probably because she made it seem easier than it was. I’ve worked in a number of states, and interacted with a number of Stef’s counterparts, and she was the best. I don’t say that just because we were friends, either. I really don’t think some of my colleagues with limited experience Outside (of Alaska) appreciate how lucky we were to have her.

Stef and I met when I was a crew chief on the Susitna Hydro Project archaeological surveys. My crew consisted of Stef and a fellow named Chuck. Chuck was a very hard worker, and could dig Tets pits to our one. This may have been because he was working off some anger. We were in a remote camp, and most of us were having our pay direct deposited. So was Chuck. A couple weeks in, he received a letter from his wife informing him that she was divorcing him. He discovered that she was cleaning out the bank accounts, and it took the university bureaucracy some time to stop the direct deposit, so for several weeks the poor guy was working for money he’d never see. He (understandably) was a bit morose and misogynistic in our lunch conversations for a while. He carried the gun for our crew (a personal sidearm) and occasionally when he’d go off into the bushes after being particularly down, we’d wind up worrying if he didn’t return in a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately we never heard a gunshot.

Stef leaves behind her husband, Owen Mason, also a good friend and the geomorphologist on the Nuvuk project, as well as many family members and friends. She’ll be sorely missed, both personally and professionally.

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