James Fraser Obituary

James Archibald Fraser
James Archibald Fraser

May 20, 1934 - May 26, 2019
Born in Hoquiam, Washington
Resided in Anchorage, Alaska


Dr. James Archibald Fraser was an intrepid outdoor adventurer with a curious, scientific mind. His 85 years of life brimmed with adventure.
Born in Hoquiam, Wash., he was raised in Coos Bay, Ore. He remembered a strong connection to his high school science teacher who encouraged his passion for science. At 6 feet tall, and only 150 pounds, he claimed his position on the football team was really "end of the bench, guard of the water bucket," though he remembered making one great tackle! His football coach said his letter was for his brains: "he'd learn the signals and plays in 15 minutes." He knew he wanted to be a doctor by the time he was 4, following in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, Archibald Craig Fraser, a physician and surgeon in County Leitrim, Ireland.
From 1952 he attended the University of Oregon for undergrad up through his anesthesia residency in 1964. Dormitory stories include an incident of rappelling out a fourth floor dormitory window, leaving a puzzled supervisor wondering how all the broken glass ended up inside. It remained a mystery. James joined and traveled with the basketball team as official scorekeeper and statistician. "It was wonderful!" James said.
His roommate invited him on his first climbing trip up Mt. Hood. Upon returning from that first "spellbinding" experience, he outfitted himself with new boots, crampons and an ice ax. As a wealthy intern earning $50/week, he soon geared up with a collection of ropes, pitons and carabineers and was soon invited and sponsored into the Wy'east Mountaineering Club. While working as a "scrub-tech" at the University of Oregon hospital, he was named Chief Tech of Neurosurgery and was drawn to anesthesia practice. Through his grinding final year of med school, he managed to get out with the Wy'easters to ski, on wooden skis. He skied the circumference of Mt. Hood above tree line, crossing several glaciers. On New Years Eve 1960, he and two friends made the first ascent of Monkeyface in Smith Rocks, Ore., establishing the Pioneer Route. It was the first of his many first-ascents, including Peril Peak, Organ Mountain, Rosy Mountain in Alaska, and the presumed first ski traverse from Girdwood to Eagle River, Alaska.
Just days after completing his anesthesia residency, he arrived at Elmendorf Air Force Base as the only anesthesiologist on base, and one of the first in the state. His personal belongings log included only five boxes of books, one box of clothes, three pairs of skis and his climbing gear. Alaska and her mountains would remain home for the rest of his life. He made more than 500 trips up Flattop in all seasons, and over a dozen helicopter skiing trips, well surpassing his million-vertical-feet milestone: data he kept meticulously. As Forest Service Avalanche Ranger at Alyeska, paid $1/year, he carried rounds of 75mm recoilless ammunition and hand charges up the mountain, capturing the first run down the mountain.
His Mount McKinley climb was a proud memory. After a year of careful planning, his six-party team began their trip skiing nearly 100 miles from Talkeetna to the base on Head short skis mounted with barn hinges. On May 1, they began marking their route with tomato stakes. It took one week to reach Kahiltna Glacier and another five days ferrying loads to 14,000-feet, where they repacked and moved onto the southwest route to a spectacular high ridge camp spot. They had the entire mountain to themselves. An infamous lover of dessert, his birthday was celebrated during their descent when some close friends airdropped a birthday cake cushioned in pork curlies.
Also an avid sailor, he and his best friend Bill Schoepoester shared ownership of the SV Rumdoodle in Seward, Alaska, for 30 years, with never a disagreement. Departing Seattle, Wash., in their new boat, they briefly ran aground while testing the depth finder for accuracy. A few days later, still on a steep learning curve, they first raised their spinnaker upside-down.
After serving his two so-called "overseas tours" at Elmendorf, he left the Air Force and joined the staff of doctors at both Community and Providence Hospitals. He eventually limited his practice to Providence and became a founding member of today's Providence Anchorage Anesthesia Medical Group. Dr. Fraser became a beloved colleague, known for his integrity, careful practice and intense dedication to his patients. Recovery room nurses still recount how his patients woke from surgery without nausea.
He bought a one-room ski cabin in Girdwood where, in 1978, he met the love of his life and partner in all things, Sharon Long. Married in 1980, they spent their lives skiing and sailing together, and welcomed two children, Grant and Victoria, into their happy adventures. He eagerly and patiently passed his love of hiking, biking, skiing, rock climbing and sailing onto them both.
Words often used to describe him were kind, generous, quiet, thoughtful, accomplished, appreciative, polite, curious, honest and smart - really smart! He appreciated top-of-the-line equipment, and in recent days could be seen cruising REI with the aid of his walker to survey the latest in outdoor gear. He was a founding investor and board member of the Alaska Rock Gym and an initial supporter of Alaska Public Radio in its startup. He enthusiastically supported the performing arts community and held season tickets to the Anchorage Opera and Symphony. He was a huge Oregon Ducks fan, who loved wearing green to honor his alma mater and Irish ancestry. He climbed nearly every peak you can see from Anchorage and Girdwood. Until his last day on earth, he remained curious and enthusiastic about learning and sharing information about history, scientific discoveries and medicine.
He is greatly missed by his wife of 39 years, Sharon; and daughter, Victoria; and predeceased by his son, Grant Bruce Fraser; parents, James Dudley Fraser and Margaret Henderson Fraser; and siblings, Alexander "Sandy" Cyril Fraser and Kathleen "Kitty" Connaught Lindsay.
A dedicated husband, father, brother, uncle, friend and lover of all desserts, James was patient and kind. He was humble and playful. A careful mountaineer and revered physician who loved his family dearly. He was not just a star, he was a constellation.
May we all fit so much living into one lifetime. In his own words, "Yaba-daba-doo!"
Family and friends are invited to a Celebration of Life on Sept. 8, 2019, at 1 p.m., at the Alyeska Hotel in Girdwood. Contributions in memory of James can be made to the Grant B. Fraser Memorial Endowment for Trauma Care, c/o Providence Alaska Foundation, P.O. Box 196604, Anchorage, AK 99519.

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Alyeska Hotel
1000 Arlberg Ave
Girdwood, AK US 99587
Sunday, September 8, 2019
1:00 PM


Grant B. Fraser Memorial Endowment for Trauma Care
Providence Alaska Foundation,P.O. Box 196604
Anchorage, Alaska USA 99519