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Foster served Alaskans with honor

Alaska lost a great champion with the passing away of Rep. Richard Foster. His years of dedicated service in the Alaska Legislature can easily be measured by the good he accomplished for our state and particularly for Northwest Alaska. Richard was the right person in the right place, doing the right job at the right time. His life counted.

I knew Richard for most of my life. Our families grew up together in Nome and remained close friends. Both of our families were involved in gold mining, and Richard and his father were bush pilots who provided essential air service into our remote mining sites.

After graduating from Nome High School, Richard served valiantly and heroically in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. The military and America's defense were a major part of Richard's legislative agenda and each year he made certain that Alaska's veterans, military and National Guard were properly funded, honored and given due respect.

Richard followed in his father's footsteps in pioneering air routes and providing essential air service to communities in western and northern Alaska. Many times he risked his life bringing supplies to stranded miners and patients into the hospital at Nome and performing other missions of mercy. Foster Aviation provided dependable and reliable essential air service for many years.

Richard served the State of Alaska honorably in the Alaska Legislature for over 20 years. He was first elected to office from Nome in 1988 and was continually reelected by wide margins of support from his constituents. As the legislative representative from Northwest Alaska, Richard was responsible for countless improvements in transportation, education, health care and law enforcement. He worked tirelessly for the folks of Northwest Alaska and his efforts are evident in every city, village and community in his district.

Richard loved mining. He was happiest when he was out "digging in the muck" searching for the elusive yellow color of gold. He spent many summers working his claims on Hannon Creek. The amount of gold he was able to extract never mattered to him as much as the joy and happiness he felt just being out in his remote camp, at peace with himself, the land and nature.

Richard Foster was recently honored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Association with its Distinguished Alumnus award. He certainly was one of Alaska's and the University of Alaska's true success stories. He steadfastly put his life and his education to work for the people of Alaska. He was an "old school" political person -- one you could count on to do the right thing, one who kept his promises, one who firmly believed in the people he represented. Richard will be greatly missed -- not only in the Legislature but also by family and friends throughout the state of Alaska.

Gail Phillips is a former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives.