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Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

Stepmother of territorial governor dies

FAIRBANKS -- Vuka Stepovich, who in her later years hiked the Chilkoot Trail, floated Alaska rivers and waded in the Arctic Ocean, died Wednesday at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. She was 97.

Family and friends from around the nation remembered the stepmother of Alaska's last territorial governor as a gracious person who loved Alaska.

``She was the outdoor type and that kept her healthy for years,'' said former Gov. Mike Stepovich. ``She loved the creeks and she loved Alaska. She was very influential in my life.''

Born in Risan, Yugoslavia, Vuka Stepovich married ``Wise Mike'' Stepovich in 1928 and moved with him the next year to Alaska, where he ran some gold mining and real estate enterprises.

The couple had four children. The elder Mike Stepovich had another son, Mike Anthony Stepovich, from a previous marriage. The son spent summers with Vuka and his father and grew up to become Alaska's last territorial governor.

``Wise Mike'' Stepovich, 30 years older than his wife, died in 1945. Vuka was left to raise the children and manage the family concerns. By that time they had moved to Saratoga, Calif., where they had a farm and orchards.

Vuka flew to Fairbanks from Saratoga every summer, including this one.

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