Former legislator Urion dead at 69

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rick Urion, a former Anchorage legislator who adopted Juneau as his home town, passed away Tuesday at age 69.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

His many friends locally remember both his good nature and his devotion to Juneau.

"No matter where you would meet him, in the Capitol hallways, on the street or on the trail to Sandy Beach, he always had a smile on his face and was happy to see you," Paulette Simpson said.

Former Juneau Mayor Bill Overstreet said Urion fell in love with Juneau, and Juneau gained a valuable citizen when he stuck around after leaving the Legislature in the 1970s.

"He liked our town so much he just decided to live and work here," he said.

As a legislator, he resisted capital move proposals from some other Anchorage lawmakers and kept up the fight after leaving the Legislature.

"He continued to support Juneau with his enthusiastic support of the road system," Overstreet said.

Urion served three terms in the Legislature, and served as minority leader in his final term. He will be honored Friday, when state flags will be flown at half-staff.

Former Juneau Democratic Rep. Jim Duncan, who served in the House with Urion, said his hard work and commitment to his views won personal respect from colleagues.

"He was very strong in his opinions, and we voted opposite on a lot of things, but he stood firm in what he believed in, including supporting Juneau on the capital relocation (issue), and you had to respect that," Duncan said.

Juneau's Al Clough, now a pilot with Wings of Alaska, worked with Urion when he was deputy commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development under former Gov. Frank Murkowski and Urion was director of the Division of Corporations and Business and Professional Licensing.

He'd also seen Urion prior to that, as he was working the halls of the Capitol on behalf of Juneau.

"Rick did an awful lot to give Juneau a good presence in the Legislature," Clough said. "He wasn't up there as a paid lobbyist ... he was up there because he cared about Juneau," he said.

"Juneau never really had a better advocate in the halls of the Legislature," Simpson said.

Urion invested his time and effort in getting to know people and becoming their friends, even when he disagreed with them politically, she said.

"That was his theory, and that was how he operated," she said.

In Juneau, Urion learned more about the city's mining history than most Juneau natives.

"He was absolutely fascinated with Juneau's mining history," said Dave Stone, a Juneau Assembly member, as well as mining expert and author.

Urion lived near the Treadwell Mine, and the trail there was a favorite walk with wife Ginger Johnson and his dogs, but he studied all the local mines.

He produced videos on the Treadwell, Alaska-Juneau and Perseverance mines, digging through Stone's collection of historic photographs to contrast the current locations with what they looked like when the mines were in operation.

"He really dug into the details of Juneau's mining history, and did an excellent job. He'll be sorely missed," Stone said.

"He asked me a lot of questions where I really had to think or do a lot of research," he said.

Overstreet said Urion took to Juneau like a native.

"It's an interesting transplant from New Jersey to Juneau," he said. "That's a long hop and he made the adjustment very well."

"He was a good long-time Alaskan," Clough said. "He was good guy, the kind of people we could use more of."

Simpson had her own remembrance of Urion.

"His hospitality was legend, as were his prime rib dinners or chicken and dumplings," she said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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