Alaska Lt. Governor candidate and Chair of the U.S. Arctic Commission Mead Treadwell on Walter Hickel:
Gov. Wally Hickel, who invited me in to his world when I was a high school grad visiting Alaska in 1974, and in the 36 years I worked with him, here in Alaska and around the world, helped me learn a million things — about Alaska, the world, business, ethics, and staying free –passed away 90 minutes ago.
“Stay Free.” I don’t know if it will be his epitaph, but he said many times that’s what it should be, and that’s what we should live by.
Historians will take many slices of Wally, but my take is this: Tonight Alaskans lost a leader who, again and again, showed us how to stand up for our potential and how to achieve it. He was most proud that he helped delay Alaska Statehood, unt il Congress guaranteed the 103 million acre land grant to the State (of Alaska’s 375 million acres) that came with our star on the flag. For Alaska, that made all the difference. We are a whole state instead of one split in half as the Eisenhower Administration suggested with a partition to make Arctic Alaska a defense reserve. The North Slope oil fields helped all of us build an economy, and our people live in one Alaska, not a state and a territory which would have disenfranchised Alaska’s North Slope residents.
In my last conversation with him of length, at breakfast in the Pantry of the Hotel Captain Cook, with Malcolm Roberts and Carole Chambers, he encouraged me to run for Lt. Governor this year. He could not have been more bullish about Alaska’s opportunities, and, speaking of them, told Malcolm in a later phone call, “Get the job done!” At breakfast that day, he had that totally amused smile on his face as he asked us to repeat back to him stories he’d told us over the years.
In the room with him at the hospital last weekend, I was reminded of something he did with his kids, and those of us on his staff from time to time, when things got tough. We’d grab both hands, hold them for a few seconds and say “battery chargers” to each other, eye to eye. His spark could start a lot of cold engines, and stir a lot of hearts.
Godspeed, Wally Hickel, and love to your family. He often asked that he be buried standing up — so he won’t have to get up to fight! And he often joked he hoped St. Peter would send him back, because there are just so many good things left to do.