Athabascan leader dies in Fairbanks

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Ralph Perdue, an Athabascan leader and former president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, has died at age 73.

The Fairbanks Native Association chief died Tuesday at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital about 12 hours after being taken off life support, said his daughter Karen Perdue Bettisworth. He had been battling cancer complicated by pneumonia.

There were a lot of people who got to say good bye to him,'' Bettisworth said.

About 40 or 50 people kept watch with the family at the end, including close friends, Native leaders, elders and numerous nieces and nephews.

For the past several months there has been an unbroken stream of people visiting Perdue as word of his illness spread.

Perdue initiated and was one of the founders of the Fairbanks Native Association in the early 1960s. The association is a nonprofit social services organization.

Perdue was elected president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference and served six years in that position. He also served on Gov. Walter Hickel's Federal and State Land Use Commission, the Communication Commission, the Fairbanks North Star Assembly and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board.

Ralph has always served as a guide and inspiration for FNA and has been our president emeritus for years,'' Annette Freiburger, FNA executive director, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. We recognized him as our FNA chief, the only chief we have in Fairbanks.''

Perdue was born near Koyukuk in 1929. His parents, Kokrine and Matilda Kriska, allowed Virginia and Eldridge Perdue to adopt Ralph at age 10 so that he could receive an education.

He was a jewelry maker and goldsmith trained at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and opened a jewelry store in downtown Fairbanks. His wife Dorothy now operates Perdue's Jewelry at Shoppers Forum.

A celebration of Perdue's life will be held starting at noon Saturday at the David Salmon Tribal Hall. A 24-hour a day visitation, will begin at noon Thursday at the David Salmon Tribal.

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