ANCHORAGE - H.A. "Red" Boucher, Alaska's first elected lieutenant governor, died Friday. He was 88.
"Alaska has lost a remarkable statesman," Gov. Sarah Palin said in a statement. "We will never forget the many contributions Red made to the state. He will be greatly missed."
Boucher, whose career varied from politics and telecommunications to inspiring the state's summer baseball league, died at 2:15 p.m. at his Anchorage home. Boucher, whose formal name was Henry Aristide Boucher, was surrounded by members of his large family, said his daughter, Lara Boucher.
"He leaves an everlasting legacy," she said. "I never quit learning about things of his life, people he influenced, the opportunities he had in his life. One of his most amazing legacies is that he loved to bring people together and he inspired them from all walks of life, everyone from statesmen to convicted criminals."
Boucher, who suffered a stroke in 2005, began slipping in health about six months ago, according to Lara Boucher, a daughter with his fourth and surviving wife, Vicky.
He was born in Nashua, N.H., on Jan. 27, 1921, shortly before his soldier father died from the lingering effects of exposure to mustard gas in the World War I Battle of Verdun of 1916. As a child, his mother developed multiple sclerosis and Boucher and his brother were placed in an orphanage.
His family said Boucher earned his lifelong nickname after President Franklin Roosevelt met the red-haired boy and said, "They ought to call you Red." The family said he ended up in Alaska after campaigning for a young senator from Massachusetts by the name of John F. Kennedy, who told him there was great potential in the far north territory.
He arrived in Fairbanks in 1958 - a year before Alaska became a state - after serving 20 years in the Navy. Among his early accomplishments in the state, the baseball lover founded the Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball team in the 1960s, setting up the roots of the Alaska Baseball League. Earlier this year, Boucher was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
He entered politics by way of the Fairbanks City Council, then served as mayor in 1966.
He served as lieutenant governor under Gov. William Egan, from 1970 to 1974. He later was elected to the state House of Representatives, then served on the Anchorage Assembly.
Another interest was telecommunications, sparked by the first Apple computers, a technology he envisioned connecting the world. He became known as a telecommunications whiz whose successes include a crusade to boost Internet access in remote villages.
Rev. Karl Clauson, Boucher's former pastor in Anchorage, recalled their first meeting seven years ago. Boucher approached him after a church service, clapped a hand on the red-haired minister's shoulder and said, "They call me Red but I think I could call you Red," said Clauson, who now lives in Irvine, Calif.
"Red was a very unique man. He had a zeal and a passion for life and God like few people I've met," he said. "Nothing excited Red more than seeing people win spiritually and the disenfranchised getting help."
A public memorial is scheduled for 12 p.m. June 26 at ChangePoint church in Anchorage. Palin ordered that state flags be lowered to half-staff on that day.
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