CHIEI: A funny man with serious convictions.
By Don Hunter
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: March 29, 2002)
Fred Chiei Jr., a former Anchorage assemblyman and once one of the city's most visible and voluble conservatives, died Wednesday night. He was 83.
A telecommunications executive, Chiei came to Alaska months after statehood as RCA Alascom's project manager for the White Alice communications system. Later, he helped write Anchorage's municipal charter before being elected in 1975 to the first of three terms on the Assembly.
He and wife, Marjorie, quickly moved into the city's civic and social swirl after arriving here from New Jersey in 1960. Over the years, Chiei served as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, as a director of the Anchorage Symphony Association, as national director of the U.S. Navy League -- he was a lieutenant commander in World War II -- and as deputy regional administrator for the Federal Energy Administration.
"He enjoyed people, and he loved public life," Marjorie Chiei said Thursday.
The couple met at a dance while Chiei was in the Navy and stationed in Rhode Island. They married on Thanksgiving.
"He always said, I ate one turkey and kept one,' " Marjorie said with a laugh.
Chiei was politically conservative -- he tried unsuccessfully to introduce a city ordinance that would have made it more difficult for women to get abortions here -- but delivered liberal doses of wit, often barbed. He once concluded a lengthy written biography of his accomplishments with the brief observation: "Mr. Chiei's hobbies are drinking and watching girls in cocktail lounges."
"He had the most acerbic wit of anybody I ever knew," said Ben Marsh, a former Assembly colleague.
Former Mayor Rick Mystrom recalled the technologically handy Chiei coming in early before a liberal colleague's last Assembly meeting and switching the wiring on the group's electronic vote tallying machine so that the outgoing member's No' votes would appear as Yes,' and vice versa.
"Nobody loved a good laugh as much as Fred," Mystrom said. "But that's not to say he didn't take his role seriously. He made sure money was spent carefully and that taxpayers got what they paid for."
Chiei suffered from lung cancer and recently had developed pneumonia as well, according to his wife and nephew Chris Chiei. He was in Providence Alaska Medical Center when he died. Survivors include Marjorie, Chris, and brothers Leone of East Windsor, N.J., and Dante of San Antonio.
His remains will be cremated, and his ashes spread over the Chugach Range. At his request, there will be no memorial service.
Chris Chiei said his uncle was in good spirits until the end. He said he asked Fred why he didn't want a service after his death.
"He said, I've been to enough funerals in my life; I'm hoping this is one I can skip.' "