Governor Mike Stepovich, last governor of the Territory of Alaska, died Friday, February 14, 2014 in San Diego, California surrounded by his thirteen children. He was 94. The pillars of Governor Stepovich's long life were Alaska, his family, and his faith. The many achievements and accomplishments of his active life revolved around these cardinal elements.
Stepovich was married fifty-five years to Matilda Baricevic and they were parents to thirteen children, Antonia, Maria, Michael, Peter, Christopher, Dominic, Theodore, Nicholas, James, Laura, Nada, Andrea, and Melissa. Although his large family was a source of pride, Mike gave all the credit to Matilda, saying she did all the hard work. The Governor is survived by his children and their spouses, thirty-seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Matilda passed away in 2003. Stepovich also has two half-brothers and two half-sisters.
This large family was raised and formed in the Roman Catholic faith, just as Governor Stepovich was. He was educated in Portland, Oregon at the Holy Cross preparatory school and university, finally completing his undergraduate degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington in 1941. Stepovich received his Law Degree in 1943 from the Holy Cross Fathers at Notre Dame University. The Governor and his wife were actively involved with the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks and were the Founding Chairmen of HIPOW, which has become a primary source of support for the schools. Stepovich also volunteered as legal counsel to the Diocese of Fairbanks and St. Joseph's Hospital in the early years.
Stepovich's professional career was served at the Bar and in political service to Fairbanks, the Territory of Alaska and the State of Alaska. After passing the Bar in Indiana, Mike enlisted in the Navy and served as a lawyer at the Great Lakes Naval Station and Fleet City in California. A gifted trial attorney, Stepovich made sure that his varied clients received the full protection of the law. He was proud that no one he defended ever received the death penalty. He often received payment in kind' including Native handwork from the villages, the family's first TV set and first snow skis. Mike's instinctive knowledge of human nature aided him in selecting juries as well as working with fellow Alaskans in the political arena. His natural response to problems and challenges was always to figure a way to make things work out. He exemplified this very Alaskan virtue in every aspect of his life.
This included a very active life in sport. Stepovich was always athletic and he passed this trait on to his family. Avid participation segued into coaching collegiate potential with the Goldpanners and closely following sons and daughters and grandsons and grandaughters as they played sport at every academic level. Mike excelled in baseball, handball, and golf and played these sports throughout his life.
Mike Anthony Stepovich was the son of Fairbanks gold miner Marko Wise Mike' Stepovich and Olga Fabianich. He was born March 12, 1919 at St. Joseph Hospital. He passed the Alaska Bar in 1947 and set up his practice in Fairbanks that same year. He served in the Territorial Legislature from 1950 until 1957 when he was appointed Governor of Alaska by President Eisenhower. After Statehood, Governor Stepovich returned to Fairbanks to practice law and raise his family. The family had a second home in Medford, Oregon. In Medford Mike and Matilda and their family were actively involved with Sacred Heart Catholic School and St. Mary's School. The Governor also supported Magdalene House, the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, and visited the sick at Providence Hospital. In his later years Stepovich traveled the country to be with his sons and daughters and their families.
There will be a Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, February 28 at 11:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 1316 Peger Road. The Rosary and viewing will be Thursday, February 27 at 6:00 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 115 North Cushman Street. Donations can be made to Monroe Foundation, 615 Monroe Street.