Our Thanksgiving dinner table was fuller than usual this year. Actually, I should say tables — we had to grab a couple of folding card tables out of the attic and hunt down every last plate and item of silverware to accommodate our 20 guests, a mix of family and friends.

Before we tucked into the variety of desserts awaiting us, one by one everybody offered up what they were thankful for. Several friends remarked that they were thankful they had someplace to go for Thanksgiving because they no longer have family with whom they could spend the holiday. You miss family members who have passed away a little more at the holidays, I think.

20141202 MomentOfYouthBut by the same token, you remember the wonderful times you spent with them, too. In our January issue,  Reba Temple, a 25-year-old lifelong Bristol Bay salmon fisherman and math teacher at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska, writes about the wealth of memories her family made fishing together each summer.

In our Moment of Youth column, which begins on page 9, Reba writes about how she cherishes the memories of fishing with her brother, Ben Sherrett, her sister, Jill Temple, her mom, Lynn, and her dad, the late Tom Temple.

Charlie Ess, our North Pacific bureau chief, wrote a profile of Tom Temple that appeared in our November 2000 issue. In 1986, at age 29, Temple was diagnosed with a serious heart problem and learned he would need a heart transplant. Fish fries and rallies were held, and the city of Homer raised about $38,000 to help pay for the transplant. Fishing friends also made donations, and a statewide fund-raising effort yielded $70,000.

Temple became one of the first two Alaskans to receive a heart transplant, and one of the first in the nation to receive the then-new antirejection medicine that would boost the life expectancy of transplant recipients from months to years.

It worked. Remarkably, Temple was able to return to fishing the next summer — and he continued to fish for 26 more seasons. But in 2013, cancer claimed Temple at age 56.

In her column, Reba Temple writes about how the fishing lifestyle makes a family close. When her dad was diagnosed with cancer, the family quickly came together to be with him, cramming together to stay in his hospital room, just as they did those summers on the family's 32-foot gillnetter, the Cloud 9.

Reba recognizes that her story isn't unique, that there are "countless families in Bristol Bay who return summer after summer to fish together." Fishing families all over the country can tell similar stories. One of the strong points of this industry is the way so many families have embraced the fishing life — and continue to do so, even though the regulatory climate and market forces make doing so increasingly difficult.

But when the chips are down, fishermen band together to help their fellow harvesters. Fishermen are a kind of family, too. Maybe families aren't solely defined by blood. As I was reminded at Thanksgiving dinner, if we're lucky, we also have a family of friends to whom we can turn, especially when we need them most.

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