Jerry Fabrizio

The Tibetan Buddhist monks of Seattle’s Sakya Monastery held prayer vigils for Jerry Fabrizio this week. The reclusive gold miner who practiced Tibetan Buddhism for over 40 years and helped build and maintain the monastery during the mining off-season died at his Nugget Hill mining camp Aug. 4. Autopsy results are pending. Fabrizio was 72.

Fabrizio came to Alaska from Seattle with a friend in the mid-1970s, camping on Mount McKinley for a summer and bonding with remote Alaskan life. He discovered the Chilkat Valley and took a family path to mining. Fabrizio’s stepfather, uncles, and brothers were miners and geologists. He spent four decades prospecting seasonally and returning to Seattle each winter.

Fabrizio worked at several mines in the Porcupine River area in the 1970s, and in 1980 staked claims on 640 mountain acres and about another 100 acres further downstream. He formed the Snow Lion Mining II LTD partnership of which he was the general partner, or chief officer, until recently.

Phil Lockerman, who was a partner with his brother, said Fabrizio was more a prospector than a miner. “He enjoyed looking for the gold, and doing the scientific stuff on it. I believe without a doubt that Jerry knew more about the geological history of the Porcupine River drainage and the mining history of that place than any other person.”

Friend JoAnn Ross-Cunningham said Fabrizio became impassioned when it came to finding gold and talking about it. “It was like a dam bursting,” she said. He told her and other friends and family that his goal was to use the mine profits to help feed hungry children around the world. She said Fabrizio was a convert to Buddhism who took it so seriously he went to India to see the Bodhi Tree, where Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment.

Resident Jan Hill‘s late husband Jim worked with Fabrizio at the Nugget Hill mine site, and she sometimes joined them as camp cook.

“Jerry had a dream, it was always ‘when’ he struck gold, not ‘if.’ He believed the gold was there and new technology would get to it, and that he was the person who would make it happen,” she said.

Fabrizio’s mine is nearly inaccessible. “He had a comfortable, but very basic camp. There are few people who could live like Jerry did,” Hill said. He often worked alone, especially the last 10 years. “He was a Buddhist. He didn’t kill things. Even mosquitoes. He fed the squirrels. Jerry was a gentle soul.”

Lockerman said Fabrizio prayed for an hour morning and evening, strung Tibetan prayer flags, built small shrines, and kept incense burning. He worked mostly with only a pick and shovel. “It was arduous and repetitive work so he’d be saying mantras all day long,” Lockerman said.

In 1995 Fabrizio traveled with a group from the Sakya monastery to Nepal where he met the Dalai Lama. “Jerry got his personal blessing,” Lockerman said.

Lockerman said he believes his brother also found the lode source of the Porcupine gold.

Jerry Fabrizio was born in April 1942 to Elmer Fabrizio and Elizabeth Jane Garrett Fabrizio in Denver, and was raised largely by his mother’s second husband, Bernard Lockerman.

His mother was ill much of his childhood and his father worked in Greenland, so the children were sent to the Garrett family farm in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. He attended high school in Phoenix and at 18 reunited with his father, a crane operator in Seattle, attended some college, then joined the Air Force, where he discovered a talent for foreign languages, and was trained in Russian and German. He was stationed in Germany, intercepting East German and Soviet communications during the Cold War, his brother said.

After his service, Fabrizio returned to Seattle, worked for the postal service, earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Washington and apprenticed and became a marine carpenter and boat builder. Fabrizio married and divorced, and met Eugenia Cooper, also a Buddhist. They had a daughter, Olivia Fabrizio.

Phil Lockerman said his brother’s will requests all Fabrizio’s interest in the mine and future revenues be used to create a foundation to feed hungry children.

“I would very much like to make that happen. To travel the world and establish some places where kids can get food and shelter,” Lockerman said.

Fabrizio leaves brothers Philip Lockerman of Haines and Robert Charles Lockerman of Washington D.C., daughter Olivia Fabrizio of Seattle and two stepsisters.

“More than anything he loved the peace and tranquility. The mine is a very beautiful place, and you could be in any century up there. He died doing what he wanted to do, up on the mountain he dearly loved. Most of us don’t get to have that choice,” Lockerman said.