Hugh “Bud” Fate died late Thursday. The U.S. Army veteran, who used the G.I. Bill to study dentistry and brought dental care to rural Alaska, served in the Alaska Legislature representing Fairbanks in the early 2000s.
While the 91-year-old lived an accomplished life, many people knew him as the husband of the late Mary Jane Fate, originally of Rampart, who co-founded the Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska and the Fairbanks Native Association. She was the first woman to co-chair the Alaska Federation of Natives, the first woman to serve on the Alaska Airlines board of directors and much more.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered that U.S. flags and Alaska state flags fly at half-staff on Monday to pay respect to Fate and issued a statement noting some of Fate’s contributions to Alaska, particularly in public education.
Originally from Oregon, Fate came to Alaska in 1950 for a job on an oil rig on the North Slope. He fished, he mined and he later went into politics, serving in multiple elected and appointed roles. During the 1970s, Fate flew up and down the Yukon River with his wife providing dental services to underserved communities. In 1988, the University of Alaska granted Fate an honorary doctorate of public service.
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, son-in-law to Fate, announced his passing on Friday at the GOP luncheon in Fairbanks where he was the last-minute featured speaker.
Fate died surrounded by family in the home he shared with his late wife of 65 years.
“He loved all of you guys,” Sullivan told the Republicans gathered in a banquet room at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel.
The senator choked up at times when speaking about Fate, who he said was like a second father to him.
“I got to tell him that,” Sullivan said.
The story of Fate’s life reads like a Hollywood movie and even includes a stint in Tinseltown. After getting hurt playing football for the University of Washington, Fate studied drama and moved to Hollywood to work in cowboy movies. Fate had ridden horses since age 6 and spent time on the rodeo circuit.
After turning 21, Fate arrived in Alaska and was soon drafted into the U.S. Army. It was during the Korean War, and Fate was “charged with riding the lead Jeep to conduct the combat survey on all the twists and turns of the newly constructed, 1,700-mile-long Alcan Highway, advising the mission commanders about the Arctic, cold weather, and Alaska,” reads a 2019 tribute to Fate by Sullivan.
A few years later, Fate met and married Mary Jane, who was a Miss Alaska contestant. Their marriage served as an inspiration for their daughters.
“Mom and Dad really worked together. They were such a team,” said Janine Fate Avner.
Some of the roles in business, politics and state government that Fate performed include president of the UA Board of Regents, vice chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, president of the Alaska State Board of Dental Examiners and chairman of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. Sullivan said his father-in-law was as comfortable at his fish camp on the Yukon River as he was in the boardroom.
Jennifer Fate Velaise described her father as a classic example of “one of those old-timer Alaskans who came up before statehood.”
Fate’s three daughters were reached by phone and said their father continued to give advice, recite poetry and dabble in the stock market even as his health deteriorated from old age.
“We miss him so much right now,” Julie Fate Sullivan said. “He was 91 but he was still such a force and a foundation in our lives.”
Memorial arrangements are pending.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.