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Fran Tate Brought Bubbly Personality To WGN Airwaves Via Barrow, Alaska

August 17, 2019


There are many reasons to have known and loved Fran Tate.  I came to know her through radio broadcasts during late nights on WGN as Steve and Johnnie talked with her from Barrow, Alaska.  When it was announced she would be on the air there was no sleeping until Fran had said good bye.  There was no way I was going to miss what was happening way up north.

The reason so many warmed to her was the fact she was just so darn interesting.  She spent decades on the North Slope, first working as an engineering draftsman, then running her own water delivery company and ultimately opening the wildly popular Pepe’s North of the Border, a Mexican restaurant that developed a cult following in Utqiagvik and around the world.

I would always prop my pillow up in bed and wait for her phone conversation with ‘him and her’ from Chicago as there was no telling in advance what Fran might warm to as her topic.  Her life was so packed full of ‘coming and going’ one wondered if she ever slept.  She even had her own radio show on a local Barrow station!

I loved her tales of polar bears walking down the streets of Barrow when the nights never ended, being so far north of the equator.  It was serious business to have these lumbering giants meander about, but when Fran told it there was humor to be found.  When she told of how snow would leak through any crack in a door when the winds would howl radio listeners would just snuggle further under a blanket as Fran told the perfect winter story.

When large groups of tourists would fill her restaurant I found it enjoyable to learn how every ingredient had to be brought in through deliveries from afar, raising the cost to run her famed business.  In later years when fire swept through the place she clearly loved there were no dry eyes from those who knew and loved her.

I was reading my online news feed this week when I learned that the bubbly personality was gone.  Though I had not heard her voice in years her laugh came back to my mind and a smile spread on my face.  That was the effect Fran had on people.

I am glad to have known her just a bit via radio.  She clearly had something special when it came to connecting with others.

Thanks Fran.



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