Sunday, December 03, 2023

Celebrating Erik, 'Sandpoint Centennial' documentary

by PAUL GRAVES Contributing Writer
| April 11, 2023 1:00 AM

A few months ago, our Geezer Forum planning team asked Erik Daarstad if he would be with us on April 11 as we showed the Sandpoint Centennial documentary that he filmed back in 2000-2001. He was delighted we were going to do that.

About two weeks before Erik died in March, he told me about his terminal diagnosis. Then in his typically matter-of-fact way, he apologized because “I don’t think I’ll be able to be with you on April 11.” 

And he won’t be, of course. Except in spirit. I expect his spirit-companion that day will be Bob Gunter, his collaborator on the "Centennial" project.

While Erik and Bob knew each other before they worked on this documentary, they became close friends during the interviews and whatever all went into making the film so wonderful. Bob’s son, Dave, gave me this insight into their friendship: “As much as the project itself, I think they enjoyed the growing closeness as pals that it made possible. They became, given Dad’s odd makeup of being both extremely shy and entirely gregarious and Erik’s scintillating talent wrapped up in a man of few words — but usually insightful, often wise and generally humorous — the consummate Odd Couple in the community.”

Bob conducted the almost limitless interviews with longtime residents of Bonner County while Erik filmed the conversations. On occasion, Bob would go off-script and get new, unexpected stories that eventually gave new color and depth to Sandpoint’s filmed story.

Erik’s introverted, low-key personality was an occasional target for Bob’s gregarious and twisted sense of humor. One day, they were at Rotary (Dave thinks) to promote the film. Bob began by reading from a piece of paper, saying this about Erik: 

"Erik Daarstad is one of the few people I’ve met in my life who I would call a true genius. He is talented on almost every level; his work has been honored with an Academy Award and he is considered one of the unsung greats in the filmmaking world. Beyond that, he is a model citizen, a devoted family man, a humble … a humble …”

At which point, he looked up and walked over to Erik, seated nearby, held the paper over for him to look at, pointed to it and said, “I’m sorry, Erik — I can’t make out your writing right here.” The audience’s laughter took a while to subside.

It’s been 21-plus years since the "Sandpoint Centennial" documentary was filmed. Our planning team thought it might be a good time to introduce this historical overview to folks who have moved here in those intervening years. Plus, some long-timers likely haven’t seen the film for a good while.

So when we gather as a Geezer Forum on Tuesday, April 11, some will get a brand-new look at Sandpoint’s history, while others will nod in recognition of themselves in that history. The film is two hours long, so our normal 90-minute forum will begin at 2 p.m., not 2:30 p.m. as usual.

We meet in the Community Room of the (newly named) Umpqua Bank (formerly Columbia Bank), next to Tango Café. 

Come enjoy learning and remembering Sandpoint’s colorful history as re-created by Erik Daarstad’s wonderful cinematography and Bob Gunter’s insightful interviews. I suspect they’ll both be with us in some way, if no more than in our grateful memories.

Paul Graves, M.Div., is lead geezer-in-training for Elder Advocates, a consulting ministry on aging issues. Contact Paul at 208-610-4971 or

Recent Headlines