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May 13, 2015

Alaska loses pioneer and banking leader

Alaskan pioneer Daniel Hon Cuddy passed away in Anchorage, Alaska on May 12, 2015 at the age of 94. His was a life well lived. He was born on February 8, 1921 in Valdez, Alaska, a thriving community of nearly 500 residents. His parents, Warren and Lucy Cuddy, ventured north separately, but with the common goal of adventure. The couple met in Valdez in 1916, and quickly became an integral part of the growing territory. This spirit of adventure and commitment to being a productive part of community was instilled in Dan at an early age.

Dan had many adventures with his older brother, David and his parents.He, along with many other Alaskan legends such as Alaska’s first governor, Bill Egan, Alaska Permanent Fund Chairman, John Kelsey, judge and statehood proponent Anthony Dimond and Anchorage Mayor George Sullivan all got their start in Valdez.

Warren was the U. S. District Attorney for the territory, but was replaced when President Roosevelt was elected, and the politics changed.Warren moved his young family to Anchorage in 1933.A road to Anchorage did not exist, so Dan experienced his first plane ride with Bob Reeves as his pilot.Warren set up a law practice in Anchorage, a town of nearly 2,000 at the time.He began buying stock in the First National Bank of Anchorage, ultimately attaining controlling interest and assumed the role of president.

Dan attended Anchorage High School and was very involved in various school activities.Both he and his brother were on the basketball team. Dan broke his nose during one of the games – when he ran into his brother’s head.

Dan and David continued their wildlife adventures, running a trap line along Ship Creek, duck hunting on the Cook Inlet mud flats and sheep and moose hunting in the Chugach Mountains.As a young boy, Dan served as grounds keeper of the golf course at the Park Street and later as an employee of the Emard Packing Company, rising quickly from the “slime line” to supervisor in 1938.

Dan attended Stanford University, but World War II interrupted his education.He was assigned to the 1255th Engineer Combat Battalion and advanced very quickly in rank, rising from private to captain in 18 months.Dan fought in the Battle of the Bulge and assisted in the closing of the concentration camp at Buchenwald, Germany.Dan had tremendous respect for his fellow soldiers, and always referred to them as “The Heroes.”

Dan returned to Stanford after the War.He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.Upon graduation, Dan went to law school at the University of Washington.While in law school, he agreed to a blind date with Betti Puckett. They were married the following year.Their honeymoon was a drive up the Alcan Highway, a trip where Betti naively thought she could talk this wild man from Alaska into settling down in Seattle.They continued on to Alaska.Once in Anchorage, they quickly set down deep roots.Dan clerked with Roger Cremo and Betti, new to the territory, jumped into the Anchorage community with both feet, equally leaving her imprint.

Dan’s early legal work focused on adoptions.He and Betti were a team, intent on creating the right match for the baby and parent.Dan worked in his father’s law firm until Warren’s death in 1951.Dan had to then make the tough decision of continuing his law practice or launching himself into the world of banking.He chose banking, and at age 30, Dan assumed the role of president.It is believed that Dan was the youngest bank president in the nation at the time.

Dan enjoyed banking because he said, “he liked helping people, serving the community and helping it grow.” Dan grew the bank from $25 million in assets to its current size of over $3 billion.In all that time he often remarked, “he had never received a promotion!”During his tenure at the bank, he helped build businesses, rebuilt businesses after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, witness the historic North Slope oil lease auction and the following boom and bust of the pipeline era.

Dan became a private pilot shortly after he and Betti married. They thoroughly enjoyed flying to remote areas.Dan loved Alaska and respected those who chose to live and thrive in this State.He loved his family, he loved his Bank, he loved to fish and hunt, and he taught his family to share his loves.

Civic and industry organizations gave formal recognition to Dan through the years, bestowing such awards as the Anchorage Chamber’s Gold Pan award for individual achievement in 1965. In 2002, a statewide committee of civic leaders selected him Alaskan of the Year. In 2006 the Alaska State Chamber awarded him the William A. Egan Outstanding Alaskan Award.

In 2007 the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska dedicated its Welcome Center on Elmendorf Air Force Base in his name, and most recently in 2009 the Associated General Contractors of Alaska bestowed its coveted Hard Hat Award to Dan.

Dan is preceded in death by his parents, Warren and Lucy, his brother, David, his wife, Betti and his granddaughter Nikki.He is survived by his six children and their spouses, fourteen grandchildren and their spouses and three great grandchildren.

Details of the memorial service will be forthcoming, to be held at the Wendy Williamson Theater, reception to immediately follow at the Lucy Cuddy Center at the University of Alaska.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Betti Cuddy Foundation by making checks payable to Betti Cuddy Foundation and mailed to the Foundation c/o Raymond James, 3401 Denali Street, Ste 103, Anchorage, AK 99503.Contributions may also be made in memory of D.H. Cuddy to the University of Alaska Foundation in support of the Cuddy Hall Renovation Project fund, sent to the University of Alaska Foundation, 1815 Bragaw St., Suite 203, Anchorage, AK 99508

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