Friends, Mentors, Coaches, and Artists

Everyone who is alive is influenced by those people we know. Family first, and, of course, c543abd1-90ce-4748-ab73-c95263aa1c4eDad, John A. Steeby, and Mom, Deloris M. (Coots) Steeby, deserve the most credit helping me survive my childhood and teen years. They tried to encourage my studies, but who knew I had dyslexia? The best way to get me passing grades was to encourage sports (required a B average), and they did. First baseball, then basketball, and after that, track and cross country. Last and, by far, the most for Mom to worry about, football. (Only got one fracture, and a small one, in my neck, but it was only a little thing.)

            Their encouragement continues to this day. Just last week, while visiting, my terminally ill, 84-year-old mother was helping me by finding errors in my manuscript, which I let her read since it will likely not be published while she is still with us. I am rushing to get my next manuscript for Getting Home completed, so, on my next visit, she can help with that one too. These are hours together that I deeply cherish. Dad has also read my story Escape from Playa Del Carmen, and he has added his two thumbs up.

            Coaches are another group of people, and the first ones, who try to teach you to cope in the real world without your parents. I include teachers, at least the good ones, in that group too, because the good ones see more in you than you see yourself and don’t limit themselves to just having you achieve your academic passing grade.

            “Hunk” Petranovich was my first coach when I was eight years old and played on my first baseball team. coach-lee-jordanThe next year Steve Jordan’s dad, Lee Jordan, who is still a friend, became my coach. Lee is, I believe, 90 years old and has gone from journalist to editor and chief of his own newspaper—formerly known as the Chugiak-Eagle River Star to what is now the Star newspaper. He sold the paper and the print shop and retired, only to become an author, and recently lees-bookpublished STAMPEDE! Saints, Successes, Suckers & Scoundrels of the Yukon Gold Rush.

First, though, he was a dad, a neighborhood dad to every kid that wandered into the yard. He had a love for baseball and so started coaching, and for five or six years, he was officially my baseball coach, and he will remain “Coach” until I die. Visit his page on Facebook “Ask Lee about Alaska”: While you are there, order his book. A humorous look at the Gold Rush that opened up Alaska.

            My number two coach was Andy Kirk (RIP), who was the track and cross country running coach as well as a teacher of History and Social Studies. He andy-kirksaw and helped build a desire to know and understand history and the lessons we could learn. He was one of the rare teachers that taught you how to think, instead of what to think. He was also an incredible athlete and athletic coach, and I am one among thousands of Chugiak High School graduates who miss him and have benefited from knowing Coach Andy Kirk.

coach-don-sanders            My number three coach was Don Sanders; besides being the dad of the cheerleader I had a crush on since fifth grade, he was also a Science teacher and basketball coach. He was, and still is, a musician who played the guitar and helped his daughter Vicki make her run at stardom in Nashville. Coach Sanders taught many of us to play basketball but also a love of science and the Alaska outdoors, where you could apply the science of geology to the finding of gold. He owned several gold mines and, contrary to popular belief, owning a gold mine doesn’t make you rich. Hard work, a little luck, and maybe you get rich digging gold, but teaching kids to love sports, science, and music will make you rich with memories and friends for life. Thanks, Coach, and God bless. Don lives in Nevada, and I hope to see him again while there is still time.

            Coaching isn’t limited to school and sports. In a contractual agreement, where it is a paid profession, there are coaches, life coaches, health coaches, and business coaches. In an unpaid capacity, they are called mentors, and they may well serve the same function.


Mid Shift Patrol Anchorage Police Department 1984

            At the Anchorage Police Department, I had both. My first coaches were in the academy and taught us the basics of police work, law, self-defense, pursuit driving, apprehension techniques, and the fitting in with a whole new society—the family dynamics, if you will—of a local police department. Then, there were the coaches in the field: FTOs, or Field Training Officers; they taught you the practical application and knowledge required to do the job and determined if you had the right stuff to be a part of their family. Bob Dinwiddie was my primary FTO. (RIP Bob, who retired and passed away from illness.) Ken Spadafora was my swing shift FTO, who went on to be the Chief Detective in Homicide and then to Deputy Chief of Police; and Larry Arend, my mid shift FTO.

larry-arend            Larry was a very “safety first; be a smart cop” kind of officer with a desire to solve crimes, not just take reports. I liked that. He went on to become a Detective in Homicide, and later encouraged me to become a Uniformed Investigator, a small crimes crime scene specialist, and to join our first ever Major Crime Scene Investigators on his team, transitioning from coach to mentor. He is now a freelance photographer and enjoying retirement. 

             Another mentor at APD was Turner Pippin who was a scientist beforturner-pippine joining the department, and went on to be, and remains, an Alaskan State Crime Lab Scientist. Turner taught me that you could get a cast of a shoe print in snow or ice by pouring 600-degree, liquid sulfur into the print. That, and much more. He is still a valuable asset to Alaska Law Enforcement and has invented several tools to do his work at the crime lab.


             K. C. Rhodes was a Senior Patrol Officer who took the time to teach me to be a good police officer in Anchorage, Alaska. You should kc-rhodes-johnsonknow that, at that time, I had gained a reputation as a “shit magnet.” That is someone who, through no efforts of their own, just attracted disaster. That meant hanging out with me was likely to stick you knee-deep in paperwork, but it was never dull. Later, I got a job in the Crimes Against Children Unit, and K. C. had beat me there by a couple of years. She helped me learn case management and how to investigate and solve the most horrendous crimes an adult can commit against a child. Her one failing was not teaching me how to deal with the internalization of the pain and suffering we dealt with every day. There was no prevention; we always got the report after it was too late. I have found K. C., Karren, Rhodes (Johnson) on Facebook after twenty-three years; we may be back in communications.

mike-grimes            Other mentors at APD include: Sgt. Mike Grimes, who was a Homicide Chief while I was on the Crime Scene Team and after I left the APD; Sgt. Joe Austin, the Chief Detective in Crimes Against Children; Officer Greg Baker, who went on to Homicide; Detective Maggie Borrecco, who encouraged me to become a Detective; and Officer Nancy Potter, who showed me the ropes as a Robbery Detective.

            There were many, many more fine men and women I worked with at APD—two who died in the line of duty: Officer Hanson, a veteran officer when I joined, and Officer Mizzele, who was a member of my academy class. I served as a coach to only one volunteer reserve officer as his FTO: Dan Seely, who, years later, having become a full-time officer, died in the line of duty after being shot by a suspect in my old neighborhood of Chugiak, Alaska.

wayne-vance            I want to give special thanks to my best friend on the Anchorage Police Department who joined the same time I did and completed twenty years of service, making it to Lieutenant before retiring. Wayne Vance was also a shit magnet, probably from hanging out with me or because his department serial number followed mine by one digit. My number was 665. Wayne had more dead body calls his first month than any officer at APD had in a twenty-year career, and my guess is no one has even gotten close since. We were joint members of the “After Ten AM Club”—those guys who were two hours late after leaving the street on mid shift before going home every day we worked.

            Wayne also inspired me to write a book. After he had retired from APD, he wrote five novels, and I have read all of them. You can get copies from Wayne directly by emailing him at and asking for Predator and Prey, Bore’s Tide, Serve and Protect, U-Tapao, or Braided Wire. Sailing ship adventure, the Vietnam War, the Civil War, cowboy western, and Alaska crime novels. There’s something for everyone; just ask Wayne for your preference or all five.

            Life after APD introduced me to Texas, particularly The Woodlands, where I was introduced to Toastmasters International. The Woodlands Toastmasters started me on the way to becoming a comfortable public speaker more that twenty years ago. I am currently a member of the Guts Toastmaster in Annandale, Virginia, and served as a past president. Leadership and speaker training at Toastmasters has served me well and has contributed to learning to create and deliver an entertaining story. I have many friends and mentors in my Toastmasters group, and I thank them all.

            Some people you meet socially or through professional functions that become friends first and mentors later. Dub Phillips and Ronald Wilshire are two friends from Houston that I hadn’t seen in over twenty years but both have stepped up to help me with this newest endeavor, writing books.

cm-sackettdoorway-buckThen, there are those you have never met. C. M. Sackett is a writer friend I know on Facebook who is working on his own projects and trying to make a living at the same time, but has, on a number of occasions, stopped to take the time to listen to my concerns and to help in any way he could. Another friend of a friend, D. W. (Dick) Powell is an actual business coach who has taken his time to send me bits of useful information for no other reason than he is a friend of my step-daughter, Shelley.

shelley            Shelley Hanrahan, has helped me run my business for ten years, for way too low of pay and way too much work, trying to keep us in business. In the end, two bad shoulders, both of them mine, and a bad hip, also mine, forced us out of business, because the replacement surgery will keep me down to three working limbs in use for a year, as surgery heals for each one. And, she put forth all that time and effort while running her real estate businesses in Virginia and Florida.

            Relationships with other people are created in a variety of ways. My acquaintance with D. W. (Dick) Powell is one that was created long distance through Shelley in hopes of helping my business. It has become more about writing and our writing interests, as well as speaking and our different reasons to speak. Dick is a valued coach who has continued to share valuable bits of advice over the years. I have included his biographical information for anyone looking for a business or life coach.


D. W. (Dick) Powell is a radio personality on several radio stations around the country with The Leadership Corner and The Leadership Wrangler. Dick speaks on stages on leadership and personal accountability. Dick is a trained CTT (Certified Training Instructor). Dick has taught at college level business courses, and he is a Certified Life Purpose and Business Coach.

Dick and his wife Robin of 44 years have built: Earth Wind Fire Water Training and Development on the sound basis of principles and values not taught or caught in other arenas.



I have, for many years, spent time putting a pencil to paper and creating an image that is similar to the picture or form that I am drawing. That is a skill most people can develop, but I am not what I would call an artist. 


My best friend through high school, Dan Mills, on the other hand, is an artist, and the man I went to when I needed a book cover for Escape from Playa Del Carmen. I could tell lots of stories about Dan, but he has an equal amount he could tell, so in the interest of keeping some things to ourselves, I won’t be publishing that information. 

            I will say that we had a good time and he continued to work at his art, and some of his best stuff is pure fantasy. Aliens, mermaids, weird animals and landscapes. He would be an excellent book cover artist for either a sci-fi or romance novelist, and has published his own graphic novels.

            Dan is that friend that you can be away from for ages, sit down with a good beer or ale, and take off right from where you last met. Thanks for all the memories, the friendship, and the cover art, you are the best.  
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