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Red Boucher

From David Hulen in Anchorage --

H.A. "Red" Boucher -- ex-lieutenant governor, state lawmaker, Fairbanks mayor, Alaska baseball legend, World War II veteran -- died today. He was 88. We have a short story on the homepage and we're working on a more in-depth piece.

In the meantime, here's the obituary submitted by his family.


Henry Aristide “Red” Boucher

Henry Aristide “Red” Boucher, fondly known by many as just “Red,” at the age of 88, left this world behind to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on Friday, June 19, 2009. His favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint. All who knew Red observed that he lived this verse during his life on Earth.

Red was born in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 27, 1921 to Helen Isabel Cameron and Henry Aristide Boucher. His father, who was an engineer and soldier in WWI, died soon thereafter as a result of having been hit with mustard gas at Verdun. His mother was one of the first chief petty officers in the Navy. Red received his nickname from President Franklin Roosevelt who picked this tousled red-haired lad up and after hearing his full name, said “They ought to call you Red.” His mother came down with multiple sclerosis resulting in Red and his brother being placed in St Vincent’s Orphanage in Fall River, Massachusetts. With his mother’s permission and his military heritage, Red enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17. He served aboard the Enterprise in the Pacific during WWII as an expert signalman and a meteorologist and achieved the rank of chief petty officer. He served during Midway and numerous other battles for a total of twenty years in the Navy, including a stint on the aircraft carrier Saratoga as chief petty officer for communications and meteorology.

As a serviceman, Red was invited to play on CBS’s "Name That Tune" and succeeded in winning for six weeks. A good portion of the money he won was donated to the orphanage which had cared for him and his brother.

An upcoming politician from Massachusetts asked Red to help him campaign in the Portuguese district of the state, an area in which Red was quite popular. Red did and helped John F. Kennedy win the senate race. Kennedy suggested that Red head to Alaska where there was great potential.

Here was a young energetic serviceman who had taken his mother’s deathbed advice to “stand up straight and give it all you’ve got all of the time” and he now had some direction in which to head. He had served his country in war and peace and had the medals to prove it. He had been married twice and had four children He had tried briefly to sell mutual funds on Wall Street, but Alaska was enticing to him.

With his third wife, they headed north to Fairbanks, arriving in 1958. He opened Pan Alaska Sporting Goods in 1959. He and his wife, Heidi, had five children. The sport on which he focused was baseball and Red soon founded the Alaska Goldpanners who drew its team from Arizona State University and southern California players. He managed and he coached some of the time and that was the start of Alaska’s summer baseball league. Among the players he coached were Tom Seaver and other players who went on to play in the major leagues. Along with the team he took to Wichita one year, Red took along an Alaskan black bear as their mascot and thereafter gave it to the Wichita Zoo. While serving as the mascot, the bear got loose and chased Red into the dugout. THAT made headlines!

Red entered Fairbanks politics and served on the city council and then as mayor in 1966. He was mayor during the 100-year flood of 1967. During his time at the helm, he was instrumental in keeping Alaskaland viable and having it become a Fairbanks owned entity. He also enabled Fairbanks to be named an “All-American City.”

From 1970-1974, Red served as the Lt. Governor of Alaska with Governor Bill Egan. During this time he travelled across the country presenting Alaska’s views on constructing the trans-Alaska pipeline. Under Governor Hammond’s administration, he again took to the road and pushed Alaska’s agenda for the D-2 lands, originally a section of Alaska Native Lands Settlement Act (ANCSA) and subsequently the focus under Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
In the mid 1970’s he set up a consulting service in Anchorage connecting outside businesses to Alaska opportunities. He married his current wife, Vicky Elkins Boucher, in 1976.

His interest in telecommunications was furthered several years later when he learned about the first Apple computer and this charted him on a new course. He saw this as a connection to the whole world. He took classes from the University of Wisconsin (correspondence) and post-graduate studies in labor relations at UAA and updated his business using one of the first Apple computers in Anchorage.
He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1984 and continued with his focus on local hire and on the importance of telecommunications. He helped create, and served as chairman, of the House Special Committee on Telecommunications. After several terms in the legislature, he did not slow down. He was an Anchorage Assemblyman. He was on the Chugach Board of Directors. He started Alaska Wireless Technology when he saw the possibilities wireless communication offered. Red worked as a consultant for Compaq/HP Computers and convinced them, along with AT&T, to provide wireless broadband connectivity with computers for Toksook Bay and Aniak. Aniak Learning Center was dedicated to Red. He had always had a tender spot for Alaska’s Natives, setting up an earlier communication system network called Communitree which allowed schools in the Bush to communicate with each other. He worked on getting other remote villages connected to the rest of the world.

His work as Alaska’s Digital Pioneer has been well documented in publications such as the Washington Post and Wired Magazine. He was invited to be a guest speaker a number of times at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Still motivated by his mother’s deathbed words to give it all he had, he and Vicky set up a television show called Alaska on Line where he invited guests from throughout the state and other parts of the country to be interviewed and tell their story on his show. Broadcasting pioneer, Augie Hiebert, was very instrumental in helping him as well as various business sponsors in the community. Reruns of Alaska on Line still run today.

Honors began to catch up with this busy amazing man who was touching so many people’s lives in and out of Alaska. In 1999, Red was inducted into the National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame for Red’s contributions to baseball. In 2000 Governor Knowles awarded him the Alaska Distinguished Service Medal for “exceptional meritorious service in a succession of key positions. All of which have had a significant and lasting impact upon the citizens of the State of Alaska.” He was also awarded the President’s Y2K Distinguished Service Medal for his work with Alaska Natives in preparing for the millennium rollover. In 2003, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from University of Alaska Southeast as “a distinguished scholar and public servant to the State of Alaska.” In 2007 the Alaska Democratic Party presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his public service to this state. This year he was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame for his promotion of baseball in Alaska. The Alaska Society for Technology in Education honored him and established a scholarship fund in his name, supporting outstanding Alaskan students pursuing technology-related post-secondary education or training.

Red suffered a debilitating stroke in 2005 and since that time, his wife Vicky and daughter Lara had cared for him at home. This did not stop him from offering words of encouragement to all who came to see him. He had been the guest speaker before at the annual Navy Ball, but after his stroke, he was not able to attend. So they came to him and videotaped his speech which was then broadcast at the ball. He received a standing ovation. Visitors to Red’s home included the Viet Nam Veterans Motorcycle Club and this year they presented Red with their Alaska Medal of Honor, a certificate of appreciation plaque which gave him an honorary membership in the motorcycle club, and they gave him the club name of “Jus Red.” Although the stroke left him unable to walk, ever positive, with a sense of humor, Red asked the members if that honor came with a motorcycle for him.

Each year during the baseball season, AT&T sponsors a Red Boucher night at Mulcahy Stadium. Red made it out in his wheelchair last year. This man of great stature who continued to inspire people of all ages and occupations throughout his life, who loved Alaska with all his heart and energy, who loved telecommuting with his children and grandchildren, whose heart was melded with Vicky, his steadfast companion of 33 years, and whose love of the Lord was held above all things is now free of any bodily encumbrance, free to rise up on wings of eagles. He leaves a legacy which he hopes will encourage all Alaskans and others whose lives he’s touched to “stand up straight and give it all you’ve got all of the time and to never, never give up.”
He is survived by his wife, Vicky, twelve children, Carl Boucher, Helen Loudenback, Michele Fiskum (Steve), Suzanne Donati (Bob), John Boucher (Heidi), Johanna Keys (Jeff), Jacqueline Boucher, Jamie Boucher (Si), and Jennifer McNelly (Greg), Desiree Christianson (Zach), Domini Lasecke, and Lara Boucher. There are 27 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. Red is also survived by his brother, Ewen.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at ChangePoint Alaska, 6689 ChangePoint Drive, Anchorage June 26th at noon. Pastor Wayne Coggins, Red’s brother-in-law, will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the H.A. Red Boucher Scholarship Fund at The Alaska Community Foundation, 400 L Street, Suite 100, Anchorage, AK 99501 or online at http://www.alaskacf.org.

Red will be laid to rest at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery with full military honors.

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