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Stevens family says goodbye to a stalwart sister

  • Author: Sean Doogan
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published February 27, 2014

Elizabeth Stevens, the second-eldest daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, has passed away.

According to Stevens' sister, Susan Covich, "Beth" Stevens, 58, had been battling ovarian cancer and passed away at her Anchorage home early Thursday.

Following her father's death in an August 2010 plane crash that also killed four others, Beth Stevens worked to ensure her father's reputation remained untarnished despite his 2009 federal corruption trial. The guilty verdict in that trial -- handed down days before the 2008 election that Stevens narrowly lost to now U.S. Senator Mark Begich -- was tossed out before sentencing due to prosecutorial misconduct. Beth Stevens was often at her father's side during the Washington, D.C. trial, frequently joined by her sisters, Susan Covich and Lily Stevens.

Beth Stevens was the second of five children born to Ted Stevens and his wife Ann Cherrington Stevens. In addition to Covich, Beth had three brothers: Ted Jr., Walter and Ben. Ann Stevens died in a plane crash at Anchorage International Airport (since renamed for the late senator) on Dec. 4, 1978. In 1981, Ted married Catherine Bittner Chandler; they have one child, Lily Stevens.

Covich said Stevens was diagnosed with cancer two days before her father was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010. The ovarian cancer diagnosis required emergency surgery and forced Stevens to miss her father's Washington, D.C., services.

"That was devastating for her," Covich said. "Beth was an intensely private person, but she was very protective of our father."

Stevens was also very protective of the rest of her family. Covich, who said she and Stevens were "Irish Twins" because they were born only 14 months apart, remembers her sister as slow to anger, but quick to resolve a situation she thought unjust -- especially when it came to family.

Covich remembered that when they were children, Stevens, Covich and two other siblings were vacationing with family friends in Puerto Rico. In total, there were eight children sharing one cabana. After a few days, Covich said, people got a bit grumpy with each other.

Covich said that her sister did not necessarily like the ocean -- fearing unknown things that might be lurking in the depths. But a put-down from one of the other family's kids directed at Covich sent Beth Stevens confidently and resolutely swimming her way.

"The other kid said something about my appearance," Covich said Thursday as she rested alongside the Sterling Highway on her drive from Soldotna to Anchorage to be with her family. "The next thing I knew, Beth was there, saying, 'We need to do something about this.' Then she swam over to the boy and pulled him off his raft and started pushing him under the water," Covich said. Yells from their mothers soon ended the pre-teen scuffle, but her sister's bravery and desire to defend her family has always stuck with Covich.

"That pretty much sums up Beth," Covich said. "She would always hold herself back until someone in the family needed help, and then she was always there."

Covich said Stevens died at home, surrounded by family.

Stevens also left an indelible mark on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency for which Covich said Stevens worked for 28 years. And Covich said Stevens took care to make sure people judged her on her own merits, not those of her father.

"Most of the people she worked with never knew she was related to a famous senator," Covich said. "She never, never stood behind that shield."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who as a junior senator mentored under Ted Stevens, also commented on Beth Stevens' passing.

"Beth was a loyal friend to me and so many Alaskans and will be dearly missed," Murkowski said in a statement. "She had Alaska in her blood, her father's grit, and was generous with her time and her heart."

Covich said the Stevens family will be making an official statement about her sister's death late Thursday. Stevens leaves no children behind and was never married. Covich said the family will honor Stevens' wish that there not be a memorial service for her, and has asked that, in lieu of flowers or cards, people donate money on behalf of Stevens to the American Red Cross of Alaska.

"She was a kind-hearted girl," Covich said, choking back tears. "I am going to miss her terribly."

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Elizabeth Stevens died Tuesday. She passed away Thursday morning, and the Stevens family plans to make an official statement Thursday evening.