Christopher Cole Fondell

Services for Christopher Cole Fondell, a longtime Sitka jeweler, will be held 2 p.m. April 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Chris died March 17, 2015, in Tucson, Ariz., where he had been on a business trip. He had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage on Feb. 6, and it appeared he would recover. However, on Feb. 22 he suffered a second hemorrhage that left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He spent 39 days in ICU surrounded by his family.  He gently and peacefully left his loved ones and this earth as the sun rose on the morning of March 17, 2015. He was 57.

Chris was born Sept. 30, 1957, in Dubuque, Iowa, the sixth of eight children of Harold and Betty Fondell. His family moved to the country in St. Donatus, Iowa, when he was a small child. He grew up learning the value of hard work on a farm and the love of a large family. 

He met Tammy McCoy in fifth grade. When he was 14 he began working summers as a farm hand, along with his brother, Tony, for Tammy’s father, Bill McCoy. When he was 16 he was offered an apprenticeship job with Tammy’s uncle Rob McCoy at McCoy Jewelers in Dubuque. 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.

Chris continued in the trade, learning custom design, diamond setting and hand engraving while attending Gem City College in Quincy, Ill.

He earned a bachelor of art degree from Loras College in Dubuque, and a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Dubuque.  He was the first graduate from the ROTC program at the University of Dubuque, earning the Distinguished Military Graduate award.

He and Tammy McCoy married Oct. 14, 1978, at St. Catherine’s, Iowa. They lived in Dubuque the first three years of their marriage while Chris was finishing college.

Once he completed the ROTC program at the University of Dubuque, he owed Uncle Sam a few years of his life. He and Tam headed to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he attended Officers Training School and Airborne School. They were then assigned duty at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served the remainder of his military service.

Afterward, he and Tam decided to  make their home in Colorado Springs. Chris went back into the jewelry business working for two stores. The Fondells stayed in Colorado Springs eight  years – Chris loved Colorado and loved to fish and ski. They had many friends and some family followed them to Colorado as well.

In 1987, shortly after their first child, Adam, was born, Chris felt the call of Alaska and the opportunity there. His sister and brother-in-law, Mike and Bonny Boyd, lived in Sitka at the time. He called them and soon he and Tam and baby Adam made a visit and it was decided they would move to Sitka and try it “for one year.” They arrived in Sitka on the ferry Taku on July 8, 1987.

Chris immediately fell in love with Sitka, the hunting and fishing and the amazing beauty. He had promised Tam they would stay for only one year and if she didn’t like it, they would return to Colorado. She wasn’t sure the first few months, but Sitka soon captured her heart as well and the Fondells have called Sitka home since then.

Their daughter, Megan, was born in  1990, the same year Chris and Tam sold their home in order to finance the beginning of their own business venture. Chris built the business, Goldsmith Gallery, from a small location of 250 square feet in the upper level of the Bayview Building to what it is today. 

Chris worked hard at everything he set his hand to. In the space of 36 years of marriage, he either built or remodeled eight different homes. He opened and operated Sitka Jewelers for 10 years. When the cruise industry began a decline in Sitka, he saw the writing on the wall and looked to diversify. He closed Sitka Jewelers and opened a second store in Hoonah. They have run that store for the last four years.

Chris lived three lives in the space of one. “He left us all with a huge gap in our lives and hearts. He will be forever missed,” his family said. “He was always thinking of the next project to do or business to build. He loved his family intensely. He loved Sitka and the people who make this community what it is.

“He was always ready to help people out. There are many stories of his generosity. As the days have passed since his death, stories continue to surface of his kindness to others.

“Hunting and fishing and building and working were his favorite pastimes. He loved to gather people around the Fondell dining table and share a meal with jokes and laughter. His joy for life was large and his heart was large. He had a laugh that was infectious. He had a young boy’s mischievous ways and always enjoyed a practical joke.

“Spending time on the golf course or a hunting trip with his buddies was something he relished. He loved his children and wanted them to be happy in their lives. He was a true soulmate and best friend to his wife, Tam. He valued friendship and family and his God above all. Sleep sweet, Chris. We love you.”

Chris was preceded in death by his father, Harold Fondell, and brother-in-law Joe Mausser.

He is survived by his wife, Tam Fondell, son Adam Fondell and daughter Megan Fondell, all of Sitka; and his mother, Elizabeth Fondell of St. Donatus, Iowa.

He also is survived by sister Linda (Fondell) Mausser, Greenville, S.C.; sister and brother-in-law Mike and Bonny (Fondell) Boyd of Dubuque, Iowa; brother and sister-in-law Nick and Angela Fondell, Maquoketa, Iowa; brother and sister-in-law Charley and Suzanne Fondell, Bellevue Iowa; brother and sister-in-law Tony and Juli Fondell of  Wausau, Wis.; sister and brother-in-law Greg and Jeanie (Fondell) Kalmes, St. Donatus, Iowa; and brother and sister-in-law Joel and Joan Fondell, Chicago, Ill.

His McCoy in-laws include mother- and father-in-law Bill and Maggie McCoy, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Mike McCoy, Cedar Rapids; Kevin McCoy of Monument, Colo.; Jeff and Shelly McCoy-Umryz,  Mystic Conn.; Jeff and Jean McCoy, Cashton, Wis.; Brian and Molly McCoy Omann, Sequim Wash.; Mike and Becky McCoy Shulte, Cedar Rapids; and Lisa McCoy Schroeder,  Cedar Rapids.

Many nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles also survive.

Contributions in honor of Chris may be given to The Wounded Warrior Project via the following link.

“Chris was a veteran who appreciated the sacrifice vets make for our country,” his family said. “He often helped vets in various ways. He would be glad to know vets are continuing to get support. Thank you.”



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At a Glance

(updated 11-29-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Tuesday, November 29.

New cases as of Tuesday: 414

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 286,561

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,399

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 4,195

Case Rate per 100,000 – 56.8

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 70.40

Cases in last 7 days – 6

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,173

Hospitalizations (to date) – 31

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






December 2002

 Alaska Native Sisterhood will hold a Christmas bazaar Dec. 7 at the ANB Hall. Isabella’s famous clam chowder and fry bread also will be for sale.



December 1972

Photo caption: Presbyterian women of today wear costumes from 1877-1899 at Sunday’s service. From left are Alice Postell, Dorothy Streit, Gladys Whitmore, Carrie Maura, Harriet Hannigan, Eugenie Williams, Esther Littlefield, Isabel Miller, Marilyn Ryan, Esther Billman, Beverly Scholz, Gertie Zeiger, Marcia Strand and Betty Stratton. (Photo by Martin Strand)