Alaskans awoke Wednesday to news that the 57-year-old husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola was killed after his plane crashed Tuesday night in a remote area of Western Alaska.
Condolences poured in from across the state, with friends and family remembering Eugene Peltola Jr., who was known as “Buzzy,” for his sense of humor, years of public service and commitment to his loved ones.
In a statement, Calista Corp.’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs Thom Leonard said Peltola will 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.”
Eugene Peltola Jr. 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 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 Peltola 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.
“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, too, from many political leaders, including Alaska’s two U.S. senators and 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.
In a statement announcing his death, congressional staff for U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola described her husband as a devoted family man and a person who “was obnoxiously good at everything.” Staff said he “had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments.” And they hinted at his love for cooking.
Mary and Eugene Peltola Jr. have a large blended family that includes seven children.