he Gerard McDonnell Memorial Fund provides a cash grant each year to an applicant 25 years of age and under who participates in and contributes to Irish Culture in Alaska through Irish music, dance, literature or other Irish cultural activities.
Gerard McDonnell had a heart as wide as the world.
His enthusiasm for life was infectious and apparent in everything he did.
Gerard is known for his accomplishments as a mountaineer, photographer and musician. Above all, he is remembered and celebrated for his lasting positive impact on the people around him.
Born and raised in County Limerick Ireland he moved to Alaska in 1997 and it became his home away from home. Like many Alaskans, Gerard came to Alaska by chance and stayed. Alaska drew him in with its beauty, vast wilderness, tall mountains and ultimately, its people.
Many found a true friend in Gerard. He was a humble and thoughtful person, a good listener, notoriously generous, always up for an adventure and a mischievous prankster. Wherever he went, he left new friends and good times in his wake. If Gerard was there, it was sure to be more fun.
Gerard was a beloved member of the Irish music community in Alaska. His musical abilities were well respected in both the Alaskan Community and in Ireland. He jokingly described his musical style of percussion as resembling “the complex rhythms achieved by putting sneakers in a dryer.” His band mates referred to Gerard as “the most sought after Irish Percussionist in Alaska, bar none.”
Whether it was playing his bodhrán on mountain summits, pucking a sliothar with his hurley, or singing in traditional Irish sean nós style, Gerard enthusiastically shared Irish arts and culture in Alaska and everywhere he traveled.
Gerard climbed many mountains in Alaska and the world including Mt. Everest, Denali and K2. In1999, he was acknowledged for his role in the rescue of two teams of climbers on Denali. In 2003, Gerard again assisted in a rescue that saved the life of one of his team members on Mt. Everest.
On August 1, 2008 Gerard made mountaineering history by becoming the first Irish person to stand on the summit of K2. Subsequently, after successfully rescuing three stranded climbers above 8000 meters, Gerard and the climbers he assisted were hit by icefall while descending.
These heroic actions became the ultimate testament to his strength of character and big heart.