Remembering Dave Covey, a man of benevolence, bikes and technical wizardry


When Dave Covey walked up with a smile, your day was about to become calmer. And then he fixed your irritating computer problem in 10 seconds.

He left us last week — a quiet exit that was totally Dave. He died at 64 of cancer he told few people about.

Dave worked a quarter-century at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, lastly as a computer security guy at the Geophysical Institute.

I used to think that’s all he was. Then I learned he was on the UAF running and ski teams, we had stomped some of the same ground in New York, he did computational physics on glaciers and the ionosphere and he once won a marathon in Anchorage.

In the wedge of the boreal forest in which he made his home, the Equinox Marathon is a 26.2-mile run up and over Ester Dome each September. Dave earned more than 30 triangular knit patches for finishing, several times in the top 10.

I saw him on that hill a few times. One was at the peak of my arc and the slight downslope of his. We finished close to one another; he handed me a cup of sugar water. Another time, later in our running careers, I was pushing my daughter along the course in a Chariot, a stroller with pneumatic tires. Dave was walking along with a woman and her poodle. We chatted while hotfooting the homestretch, that wry smile busting across his face.

He rode his bicycle to work at the university for a few decades straight. Not to save gas, just because he loved to ride. He toured on bikes with friends through Europe, Australia and Mexico. He always wore one of those cycling caps that Tour de France riders fancied before they used helmets. He really loved beer. And brewing mead.

His voice was soft, laid-back, always punctuated with his laugh. He was from Torrance, California, and first came to Alaska in 1975 as a runner on the UAF cross-country team.

In Fairbanks, he met and married Kelly Drew, a UAF scientist who studies how ground squirrels can do so many amazing things during hibernation, when their bodies get colder than an…

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