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Eugene 'Buzzy' Peltola Jr. remembered for his sense of humor, public service, and commitment to family

Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr. celebrates his wife’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 8, 2020 in Anchorage. Peltola died after his plane, a Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, crashed in mountainous terrain 64 miles outside the village of St. Mary’s on Sept. 12, 2023.
Rhonda McBride
Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr. celebrates his wife’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 8, 2020 in Anchorage. Peltola died after his plane, a Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, crashed in mountainous terrain 64 miles outside the village of St. Mary’s on Sept. 12, 2023.

Alaskans awoke Sept. 13 to news that the 57-year-old husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola was killed after his plane crashed on Sept. 12 outside of St. Mary’s.

Condolences poured in from across the state, with friends and family remembering Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr. for his sense of humor, years of public service, and commitment to his loved ones.

In a statement, Calista Corporation Vice President of Corporate Affairs Thom Leonard said that Buzzy would be sorely missed.

“He really lived some of the most important values that we have in our culture of being a husband, of being a father, and of service to the community,” said Leonard. “He held so many important roles that benefited us as Alaska Natives.”

Buzzy was born in Bethel. He was Tlingit and Yup’ik and a member of the Orutsararmiut Native Council. He was an avid sport hunter and fisherman, activities that took him all over the world. He turned his love for subsistence harvesting into years of public service at the federal level. For more than three decades, he coordinated subsistence management on all federal lands in the state for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Last year, he retired as regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Alaska, a pivot to support his wife, Mary Peltola, in her run for Alaska's sole congressional seat.

LaMont Albertson, one of the founders of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, worked with Buzzy to protect salmon and Western Alaska’s subsistence lifestyle.

“It's just so hard to find the words to describe his intelligence and how intuitive the guy was. He was assertive and he knew how to say the right things at the right time,” said Albertson.

Buzzy served on Bethel’s city council for two years. Lori Strickler, Bethel’s city clerk, worked with him.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Buzzy Peltola who will long be remembered for his kindness, laughter, and stories,” Strickler said. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the Peltola family and his loved ones during this difficult time.”

In a statement posted to its website, the Alaska BIA also mourned Peltola.

“The tragedy of Buzzy's passing will impact our office and all Alaskan Tribes,” it said.

Condolences came in from many political leaders, including Alaska’s two U.S. senators and its governor.

“It was easy to see why so many Alaskans called him a friend, and how he was so loved by his family,” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski posted on social media.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy both said in social media posts that they were shocked and saddened to learn of Buzzy’s death.

In a statement announcing his death, congressional staff for Rep. Peltola described Buzzy as a devoted family man and a person who “was obnoxiously good at everything.” Staff wrote that he “had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments.” And they hinted at his love for cooking.

Peltola and Buzzy have a large blended family that includes seven children.

Francisco Martínezcuello is the KYUK News Reporting Fellow and a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
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