Michael “Mike” Stepovich dies at 94.
Was Alaska Territorial Governor 1957-58.
Alaska flags are flying at half-staff this week to honor the last living territorial governor, Mike Stepovich.
Stepovich died last week at the age of 94. He was in a California hospital after suffering a bad head injury in a fall earlier this month. His services will be held in Fairbanks on Friday. Despite a home in Medford, Stepovich maintained his Alaska residency and returned each summer.
“Alaska has lost a true pioneer,” Governor Parnell said in a press release announcing the death. “Governor Stepovich was a strong, selfless figure. His love for our state is a great legacy that will endure for generations of Alaskan,” he said.
Anchorage Daily News columnist Mike Dunham said that in some ways, Stepovich was the John Kennedy of territorial Alaska. He was optimistic and constantly promoting Alaska and statehood Outside.
Stepovich’s constant promotion of statehood to the American public played an important role,” said Dunham. “No one could see the smiling, handsome young Alaskan charming the panel on “What’s My Line?” without liking him and, by extension, the people whom he represented….Here was proof that Alaskans weren’t just parky-clad hunters, whiskered sourdoughs or capitalist robber barons,” he said.
Stepovich was born in Fairbanks, and served three terms in the Alaska Territorial Legislature before serving as governor from 1957 – 1958. Following his state service, Governor Stepovich returned to his law practice in Fairbanks.
State flags were lowered to half-staff on Valentine’s Day and will remain lowered until Governor Stepovich’s funeral, which the Fairbanks Daily News Miner says will be Friday morning the 28th. Flags will be raised to full-staff Saturday morning.
Stepovich on Cover of Time Magazine June, 1958. Photo by Mike Dunham ADN.