Legendary Alaska Native bush pilot and character extraordinaire, Arthur (Art) R. Fields, Sr. took off on his final flight to meet his Maker on the morning of August 1, 2013. He was due to turn 94 later this month.
Art was born August 22, 1919 in Kotzebue, Alaska to his Inupiat mother, Alice (Hobson) Sheldon, and a Norwegian gold miner father, Conrad Simonson Fjeld. He was raised primarily by his maternal grandparents, Molly and Tom Berryman. In 1941 Art married Marie Mitchell of Noatak. Together they raised six children..
Art's career path took many turns. At age 15 he worked as a muskrat fur broker. Later he worked construction in Fairbanks for awhile as a heavy equipment operator; he served as Police Chief in Nome during World War II; and one of his proudest accomplishments was serving as an Arctic Ice expert for the US Air Force during a polar expedition referred to as the "Ice Island Project."
Learning from his merchant grandfather, Art went on in his adult life to own and operate a taxi cab business, a liquor store, numerous pools halls, several gold mining operations, and a big game guiding service.
It was in the aviation phase of Art's life that he became legendary, defining himself at the controls of his PA-18 Supercub. His piloting skills were renown as a guide, but it was Search and Rescue flying that earned Art numerous awards and the gratitude of many people in northwest Alaska. His bravery and service to his people were exemplary. He will be remembered by those who knew him as a man who provided for his family, an expert outdoorsman, a superb pilot, and a great story teller.
Art was preceded in death by his daughter Lorena Ward; his wife, Marie Mitchell Fields, and his son-in-law Jeff Smith.
Art is survived by his son, Tommy Fields and grandchildren, Douglas "Chip" Fields, Sheila Moore, Cory Fields, Eva O'Hara, and Ky Fields; his son, Arthur "Roy" Fields, Jr. and wife, Antonina and grandchildren, Deborah Fields, Diane Martin, Alice Fields, Arthur R. Fields, III; by his daughter Allie Croll and grandchildren Annette Zella, Art Mills, Andrea Croll, Aleya Croll; by son-in-law, John Ward and grandson, Thomas Gebhardt; by daughter, Carolyn Smith and grandchildren, Garrett Smith, Audrey Smith; and by daughter, Helen Bolen and husband, Tom and grandchildren, Clark "Bud" Gudmundson, Jr., Pamela Avery, James Bolen, and Stephen Bolen. Art is also survived by his son, Art Ballot. He had more than 50 great grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held on August 8, 2013, at 11 a.m. at the Friends Church in Kotzebue. In lieu of flowers, donations in Art's honor can be made to Kotzebue Search and Rescue.
Published in Alaska Dispatch News from Aug. 6 to Aug. 7, 2013