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Fred Pope

Obituary

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

 

Longtime Alaskan Fred A. Pope died July 15, 2007, at his home in Soldotna. He was 89.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Mr. Pope was born Aug. 24, 1917, in Peoria, Ill., and moved to Fairbanks from Idaho in 1940 to work as an apprentice electrician for the Fairbanks Exploration Co. on the gold dredges at Fox and Ester. In October 1941, he married Thelda Lance in the home of his sister, Pat Cook, in Fairbanks. During World War II, he worked as a civil servant on the lighting system at the airport at Ladd Field. In 1952, the family moved to Badger Road, where the couple started building the Badger Store and Auto Court. The store became a community center, school bus stop and election polling place.

On election day 1960, the store and polling place stayed open until the early hours of the morning while people listened to the election returns in the very close presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The store also became a shelter during forest fires that swept the Interior during the late 1950s and early '60s, as well as the 1967 Fairbanks flood.

Eventually, the store grew into a complex that included a trailer court, cabins, apartments, liquor store, meat processing plant, gas station and a used car repair shop. Many politicians, including Gov. Bill Egan and Sens. Earnest Gruening and Bob Bartlett, stopped at the store on Badger Road to visit Fred and Thelda.

In 1975, Fred and Thelda sold their business and moved to Idaho. Later, they built a second home in Soldotna. Fred was an avid baseball player as a young man and played in a league with teams from the mining areas around Fairbanks.

He also was active in politics and was a lifelong Democrat. In 1958, Fred and Thelda met John Kennedy when he came to Fairbanks. During the early 1960s, Fred served on the North Star Borough Assembly.

In retirement, he made jewelry and fished for salmon. In 2006, the Legislature recognized his contributions by passing a resolution stating that he was a "True Alaskan Pioneer."

"Fred was a true Alaskan pioneer," his family said. "We are grateful he was able to stay at home in Soldotna until he died peacefully in his sleep."

In 1995, after his wife died, Fred had a stroke and was cared for by members of his family as his health deteriorated rapidly.

Mr. Pope is survived by his sons, Phil Pope of Washington, Doug Pope of Anchorage and Bill Pope and Bob Pope of Soldotna; brothers, Tom Pope of Idaho and James Pope of Soldotna; sisters, Pat Cook of Fairbanks and Edna Duffield of California; and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews, most of whom live in Alaska.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai.



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