Eric James Zentner arrived into this world on May 3rd 1979 and departed November 11th 2017 to the spiritual realm where we will undoubtedly find him one day—happy, content, and most likely having just returned from a great adventure across the galaxies. Eric was lost while hiking in the Sierra Mountains, yet without a doubt we know his spirit now soars.
Eric enjoyed reading about others’ lives. He is, no doubt, looking over our shoulder now, making sure we get this right. So, we start with his many attributes: kindness, compassion, honor, intelligence, good looks, adventurousness, and determination.
Above all, Eric was kind. One would be hard pressed to hear Eric say a bad word about anyone. He was an astute observer, but always withheld judgment. Everyone who knew him speaks first of his good heart. He seemed to feel others’ needs, and sought to provide solace and understanding to those suffering hardship.
A compassionate lover of humankind. Eric was quietly determined to make this world a better place, for both humans and animals. Whether cooking dinners for those less fortunate, contributing to the medical funds of those in need, hand digging and planting gardens in interior Alaska in his spare time, or discreetly providing financial help to single moms, he helped wherever he could, always without mention.
Honorable. As one friend wrote, Eric was “true to the station of his soul.” He was unwaveringly honorable. He took pride in his work as a member of environmental remediation teams, always striving to make certain every voice at the table was equally heard and recorded. A colleague wrote, “I trusted in and was inspired by his desire to make a difference. He had the special ability to see and explain why people say and do things in certain ways.
He was uniquely capable of understanding political and emotional landscapes, most likely better than the subjects of his observations.” A close friend described Eric as “creative and innovative. He looked at problems to solve from every angle!” For many years, he worked for the state legislature, in Senate Records and, later, in the legal division’s “Confidential Area,” where he helped prepare legislation late into the night with colleagues he spoke of as some of the finest individuals he ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Smart. Eric would surprise his family and friends by reciting from memory everything from the Jabberwocky poem to Churchill’s speeches—oftentimes while juggling. He was also known to erupt into song; “Big Rock Candy Mountain” being a favorite. He had a wicked knack for absorbing languages, and, after studying Japanese and Russian for several years, learned to read, write and speak Chinese. After graduating from the University of Washington with a focus in law, Eric treated himself to a long-desired trip, jumping on a train in London and traveling across the continent to Beijing, where he would live and work for a good part of the following year.
Handsome. He was a darned handsome fellow who not only moved through the world with physical grace but took a mindful approach to his actions toward others.
Adventurous. Eric loved everything about being in the great outdoors, whether riding his fat bike during the frozen Fairbanks winter or hiking the misty Southeast forests in the summer. He was always game to jump in the ocean, climb a mountain, or swim to the glacier. He was a master diver with over 400 dives logged by the time he was 16. A celebratory swim across Auke Lake with friends highlighted his high school graduation. He crewed on sailboats with his dad, especially enjoying the annual race around Admiralty Island. He traveled several times to the Soviet Union when he was young—trips that instilled in him a lifelong love of travel. What 12-year-old wouldn’t like flying around active volcanoes in Russian helicopters!
He would laugh while recounting stories of his time spent with his cousin Jesse in remote interior Alaska, being chased by bears on his three wheeler, and bush-whacking survey lines as part of a gold exploration crew. But without a doubt, his greatest joy and accomplishment was acquiring his private pilot’s license. He found a joy in flying that seemed to set his very soul free!
Determined. Once chided by a school librarian as being “lazy” for selecting a short poem for an elocution contest, he returned to class the next day and recited Robert Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” in its entirety, taking first place in the competition. Eric not only met goals he set for himself but often exceeded them, not out of force of will but for the love of the task—like when he’d set out after work for a nine-mile stroll to the Juneau airport and end up three miles beyond at the Mendenhall Glacier.
As an avid Scrabble player (which he enjoyed at every opportunity) Eric would often end the game by setting down one last high-point two-letter word. One friend wrote that’s how she likes to think of Eric’s time among us—“a short span that formed a complete expression of immense value, quietly played at the perfect moment.”
We are certain Eric was enthusiastically welcomed into the next world by his loving grandparents George and Lolly Grady, Nora and Bill Zentner, Betty Quist, and his wonderfully theatrical Uncle Tom. For the time being he leaves behind his dad Bill Zentner, mom JoAnn Grady and stepdad Dan De Roux, his beloved sister Katie and his cherished nephew, Austin. He now watches over his grandfather Bob, his uncles and aunts; John, Paul, Janice, Irvin, Liz, Cathy, Sybil and Ken, and many special cousins. He will be dearly missed by his lifelong pals Dave Shepro, Brady Frickey and Reu Yerkes.
A foundation has been established in Eric’s honor, the funds of which will be overseen by impartial administrators and distributed to single mothers to assist with tuition and educational materials for young children. Donations can be made to the Rocinante Memorial Fund c/o Wells Fargo.
A celebration of Eric’s life will take place in November, with details to be announced at a later date. In the meantime, we ask that all who knew Eric dedicate an act of kindness to those less fortunate in his memory. He would really like that.