Christopher Cole Fondell, owner of Alaska Jewelry in Sitka, Alaska, died March 17. He was 57.
According to an online obit in the local newspaper, Fondell suffered a massive brain hemorrhage on Feb. 6. A second hemorrhage on Feb. 22 left him in a coma from which he never recovered.
Fondell was born in Dubuque, Iowa, the sixth of eight children. At 16, he was offered an apprenticeship at a jeweler with the uncle of his future wife, Tammy. “He very quickly decided that learning to make jewelry in a nice, cool work room was far more attractive than bailing hay in the humid Iowa summers,” the obit says.
After serving in the military, he and Tammy set up a jewelry business in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 1987, they decided to try Sitka, Alaska, for a year. Fondell quickly fell in love with the hunting, fishing, and natural scenery. He founded Alaska Jewelry’s Goldsmith Gallery in Sitka in October 1990, and opened up a second store in Icy Strait Point, Alaska, in 2012.
A post on the company blog by employee Cleve Oines calls Fondell the “one of the best bosses one could ask for, but he was much more than that. Chris and I played racquetball together, fished together, and shared more laughs on more subjects than a professional environment should ever allow. My last memory of Chris is him leaving work early so he could pack a large box of fish from his home freezer for me, because I’d mentioned offhand that I missed king salmon. He built the engagement ring my wife wears, and he and his wife Tam refused to let me pay for the wedding band that I have worn for the last 13 years.”
He is survived by his wife, son, daughter, mother, and seven siblings.
Contributions in his honor can be made to The Wounded Warrior Project.