Aug. 31, 1930 – March 2, 2021
Laura Bertha Vilma Hagberg Stephens “Babe” passed away peacefully at her Fairbanks home on the morning of Tuesday, March 2, 2021. She was born Aug. 31, 1930, in Unalakleet, Alaska, and is preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Stewart C. (Steve) Stephens; parents, John Albert Hagberg, “Dod,” and Laura Beltz Hagberg Wright, “Muvver”; stepfather, Dallas Wright; sister, Muriel Hagberg Carmer; brothers, John Robert “Bob,” A.E. “Bud” and Einar Hagberg; sisters-in-law, Marilyn, Bernice and Betty Hagberg; and brothers-in-law, Clarence E. Miner, William O. Stephens, William Becker and Larry Carmer, Sr.
Babe grew up in Haycock, Alaska, a mining camp about 40 miles up the Koyuk River, on the Seward Peninsula, 80 miles northeast of Nome, Alaska. She was raised with a legacy of goldminers, Inupiaq statesmen and women, Bush pilots, dog mushers and matriarchs; yet never lost her common touch. In the last months of Babe’s life, it was a fine occasion to listen to her reminisce for hours with her family and beloved friends, of her memories in Haycock.
She attended Haycock Territorial School with her siblings and made many lifelong friendships with the families in Haycock. In 1943 when the older children were to further their education, the family, “Dod”, a gold miner of Swedish descent; “Muvver”, Inupiaq and Pennsylvania Dutch; grandmother, Suzie Goodwin, full-blood Inupiaq, and the six Hagberg children would move from Haycock to the Interior of Fairbanks.
After the Hagberg family arrived in Fairbanks, Babe and her sisters Muriel and Tekla became fittingly absorbed in the bustling social life of Fairbanks with a zest that seemed foreign to one coming from Haycock. After graduating from Fairbanks High School in what is now City Hall, Babe worked at the Empress Theatre, Northern Commercial Company, which at the time was the utility company, and the Arctic Travel Agency where she met her future husband.
Babe and Steve raised seven children together; all cutting their teeth on respect, etiquette, Sunday school and family chores. They enjoyed nothing more than attending every one of their children and grandchildrens’ hockey, baseball, basketball and football games, orchestra/band concerts and piano recitals. Babe and Steve’s lives were blessed with the arrival of each of their 26 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. Seemingly endless summers with their families and many friends were spent at their cabins in Central and Harding Lake, while spending Christmases in their Maui condo.
Babe and Steve were avid sports fans and rarely missed an Ice Dogs, UAF Nanooks or Gold Kings hockey game. It is often said that people rarely make friends late in life. With Babe this just was not so, she remained particularly good at forging new friendships. In her later years new friendships blossomed while the older ones ripened and matured. Many old time Fairbanksans will remember her for her countless conversations at community events.
Together, the pair had many adventures around the world. One of the highlights of Babe and Steve’s travels was attending their youngest son Craig’s hockey tournament in Sweden in 1979. To Babe and Steve’s delight their children Rodney and Lisa made this exciting trip with them. Babe and Steve were thrilled to meet members of “Dod’s” family that Babe had only heard stories about.
Babe always saw that everything and everyone was taken care of. She made all holidays grand and birthdays were never missed. Happy birthday messages from her with the bright pink or red lipstick kisses are something we will always hold dearly. Babe was a champion of a mother and our constant friend. We all have benefited from her selfless guidance and unsurpassed generosity.
After most of her children left home, Babe received a phone call from Emily Kemak, the principal of Nordale Elementary School, asking if she was interested in coming to work in special education. Babe cherished the many years working with her students and retired from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in the late 80s.
Babe was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska Igloo #8 and the Fairbanks Lutheran Church. She loved gardening and could be found many late nights under the midnight sun planting her beautiful flower gardens, often with the help of her family. She would carefully instruct her grandchildren to not touch the poppies and just pull the weeds. She loved getting in the car at any hour and being driven through “old Fairbanks,” remembering places that brought her fond memories of her younger days.
She deeply valued her family and her friendships. Near the end of her life, her thoughts wandered back to where her memory found a resting place. It lingered in Haycock, as a child with her family.
Babe is survived by her sister, Tekla Becker of Anchorage; sister-in-law, Mary Virginia Miner of Colorado and Gale Hagberg Ryan of Washington; children, Sandra Preshaw (Tom), Muriel Hufman, Steve Stephens (Tina), David Stephens (Jana), Lisa Cartier (Mike Meath), Rodney Stephens (Sherri), and Craig Stephens (Jonelle); and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and grand- and great-grand-nieces and -nephews.
Thank you for being part of the memory of our beloved “Babe.”
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 21, 2021, at Fairbanks, Lutheran Church, 1012 Cowles St.. A reception will follow at 4 p.m. in the Borealis Ballroom at Wedgewood Resort, 212 Wedgewood Drive.
Condolences may be sent to Sandra Preshaw, [email protected], or mailed to 500 Slater Drive, Fairbanks, AK, 99701.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made in memory of Babe Stephens to the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation (GFCHF) by mailing to P.O. Box 71396, Fairbanks, AK, 99707, or going online to make a donation at fairbankshospitalfoundation.com/ways-to-give or call 907-458-5559.
Arrangements were entrusted to Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home.
Published by Daily News-Miner from Apr. 21 to Apr. 25, 2021.