Gerald Farnes, who lost his wife, Julie, and 23-year-old son Adam to the Oso mudslide, has been “paying forward” thousands of dollars in donations to other victims he believes need the money more.
Friends of the couple in their former hometown of Cordova, Alaska, donated $3,000 last Friday during a benefit at Harborside Pizza, according to pizzeria owner Brian Wildrick. Another $500 was raised by a Cordova Moose lodge, to go with many other contributions to the Gerald Farnes Donation Fund at Wells Fargo Bank.
But Gerald Farnes hasn’t taken a penny for himself, according to longtime family friend Christian Johnson. Instead, he sought out Jonielle Spillers, whose 4-year-old son, Jacob, was rescued from the mudslide by helicopter, while her husband and three other children were killed or missing.
“He just handed it to Jacob’s mother,” said Johnson, who used to hunt with Gerald Farnes.
“He lost his wife, his home, his clothes, his guns,” Johnson said of Farnes. “But he knows people who have way less than him.”
Julie and Gerald raised three sons in Cordova. The couple moved with Adam to Oso a couple of years ago. Another son, Garrett Farnes, still lives in Cordova. Their third son Brian lives in Everett.
Gerald was not home when the March 22 mudslide hit.
Johnson said Gerald Farnes mentioned to him in a phone chat Tuesday: “I’m a man, Garrett’s a young man. We’re going to get ourselves back on our feet.”
Giving the Cordova money to others “is helping him to deal with his hurt, to do something for others,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he organized the bank account, thinking it would raise a couple hundred bucks for gas money – and it kept growing. Johnson, a self-employed hunting guide, said clients in the Lower 48 have been contacting him to send money.