Donald Lee Fancher

January 30, 1955 ~ Feb. 17, 2022

Donald Lee Fancher was born in Bethel, Alaska, on January 30, 1955 to Elizabeth Wassilie and Edward Giarraputo. He was later adopted by Maxwell and Gladys Fancher. Don grew up in Bethel, Alaska, and attended Bethel Regional High School up until junior high. While in junior high he was active on the wrestling team. He attended high school in Unalakleet at Unalakleet Covenant High School. While in high school he played basketball and played the trumpet. During the high school basketball games, he would take his trumpet, and being the lone instrument player, play a certain tune to rile the crowd up. He would continue to play the tune, louder and louder, and they would yell “CHARGE!” He graduated from Covenant High in 1973. He attended college at George Fox University in Newburg, Oregon, for two years. 

Don returned to Alaska and worked for the Alyeska Pipeline at Pump 12. After working on the pipeline he moved to Unalakleet to work as a city police office for the City of Unalakleet. He met Charlene Paniptchuk in Unalakleet in 1979 and together they had five children: Donald Jr., Katherine, Wassili, Michelle and Max.

Together they lived in Unalakleet, Quinhagak and Bethel.

In 1990 Don became a volunteer at the Bethel Fire Department and achieved a Bureau of Land Management Red Card Wildlands Firefighter and partnered with the Bethel Fire Department to use their training facility. He also worked as the Executive Director for the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) Housing Authority in the early 1990’s.

In his spare time in Bethel Don was able to obtain his private pilot’s license. He flew his first solo flight on July 3, 1987. He was able to obtain his multi engine rating, however, preferred to own a single engine aircraft. Don’s first aircraft owned was a Cessna 172 and he flew many hours in that plane. During one flight between Bethel and Unalakleet, the engine cut on him and the plane started to glide down. He was able to quickly get the engine started again and regain altitude. He flew much higher than normal after the engine started up again and made it safely back to Bethel without any more incident. He owned a Saratoga and flew that plane between Bethel and Anchorage many times taking his family on vacations. Eventually the family got too big for a Saratoga so he sold that and bought a Cessna 207, which had more cargo and passenger room.

Other outdoor activities Don enjoyed doing with his family was dip netting for smelts after the ice went out on the Kuskokwim River, drift netting for king salmon, salmon berry picking on the Johnson River, fishing for silver salmon above Kwethluk, at the “Y” and moose hunting upriver on the Kuskokwim near Red Devil and Sleetmute. On occasions, Don would take his family in his airplane and go berry picking in some of the surrounding villages for blackberries.

Don was also a certified plumber and had his own business in Bethel as a plumber, working on boilers and other plumbing issues people had.

He later became the Executive Director of the Orutsaramiut Native Council in Bethel. In 2003 he moved to Nome to work for the Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority. While in Nome he enjoyed traveling along the roads and being out in the country.

In 2006 Don moved to Anchorage to work for the Department of Transportation as an Area Planner for Southwest Alaska. He retired from the DOT in 2018. In 2018 he moved to Wasilla to live out his retirement.

Wherever he lived, Don enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping and living a subsistence lifestyle in Unalakleet, Bethel, Nome or on the road system. 

He always made it a point to always take care of his five children and grandchildren. He always made sure they had a place to stay and food on the table.

Donald Lee Fancher Sr. earned his eternal wings and went to be with the Lord on February 17, 2022.

Donald Sr. is survived by his brother Will Fancher, sister-in-law Deborah Fancher, son Donald Jr., daughter-in-law Sylvia, daughter Katherine, son Wassili, daughter Michelle, son-in-law Jake, and son Max. Grandchildren Summer, Faith, Wyatt, Henry, and Joshua. Nephews Ron and Alex Fancher and David and Jonathan Dietz.

Don is proceeded in death by parents Maxwell (1998) and Gladys Fancher (2018) and sister Zola Marie Dietz (2014).


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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