Jeff Prather, a tall, slender, handsome man often encountered walking along the Airport Dike trail once held Juneau in thrall as a stand-out athlete, none more so than during the 1963 high school state championship basketball tournament. Jeff, then a junior on the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, rallied his teammates and led them to victory.
That year, Juneau-Douglas played a three-game series with Eielsen High School at the airbase near Fairbanks. Tied after two games, the third and tournament winning game, as reported by the Fairbanks News-Miner, came to a critical juncture when team captain Wayne Matheny fouled out. "It set the stage for reserve Jeff Prather of Juneau-Douglas to become a hero. Prather made his first five foul shots without a miss… Prather at the foul line and then from the head of the key connecting on a long shot gave Juneau the lead..." Jeff's teammate and cousin, Pat Gullufsen, "closed out the scoring for the Crimson Bears with a pair of foul shots…." Final score, 52-50.
Jeff's fan base started with his Metcalfe and Gullufsen cousins, and two of his greatest fans were his aunt and uncle Pat and Vern Metcalfe. During the game that won the state tournament, the Metcalfes were all gathered in the family kitchen to hear the radio broadcast announced by Vern from the Eielson gym. One of the most memorable moments of their young lives was listening as their father's voice grew increasingly hoarse with excitement describing the intense final minutes as Jeff made one basket after another, Pat scored from the foul line, and in the last seconds Crimson Bear forward Mike Triplett snagged a rebound and held on until the whistle ended the game. The whole family erupted in cheers upon the win brought home by their two cousins.
Jeffrey Mark Prather was born November 3, 1946, to Robert "Bob" and Kathleen "Kay" Prather at St. Ann's Hospital in Juneau. He died on July 12, 2021, of complications of Lewy body dementia.
Jeff was raised in an extended family in the home of his widowed maternal grandmother, Helen "Nellie" Flynn McAlister. The Prather family lived in the upstairs apartment of the Gold Street home that James and Nell McAlister purchased in 1929. Jeff's grandmother, aunt and uncle Pat and Vern Metcalfe and their children, lived downstairs. His Aunt Caroline and Uncle George Gullufsen and their family lived a block away in the Dull Apartments, later relocating to Starr Hill. Being raised in such proximity resulted in close relationships between the cousins that persist to this day.
An only child until he was 15 when his sister Susie was born, Jeff, a natural with young children, adored his new sibling, a loving relationship that lasted the rest of their lives. Jeff was a generous brother to Susie and later to her husband Todd Kollar and their two children Carlie and Kieran. Jeff also delighted in giving his cousins' children presents at Christmas that involved complicated wrappings that made them work to find the gift inside. Susie returned Jeff's generosity in many ways, especially while acting as his advocate during his last few challenging years.
Jeff attended St. Ann's Catholic elementary school and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1964.
His athleticism continued as he played for city league basketball teams, participating in several Gold Medal tournaments. He was an accomplished runner and ran several marathons and other long-distance races.
In 1972, Jeff went on a 2,500-mile bike ride in South America with his cousin, Mac Metcalfe and friends Tom McLaughlin, Mark Kirkness, and Jim Rosenberger. He frequently biked to work from the airport area to downtown, and most days would walk the Airport Dike where he made numerous friends among that trail's walking community.
For over ten years, beginning in the mid-1960s, Jeff worked at the Juneau Cold Storage where he was boss of the "inside crew" under lead foreman, Puggy Nelson. During the pipeline years he went to work on the North Slope, earning money for college. Completing his post graduate studies at Western Washington University in 1983, Jeff passed the Certified Public Accounting exam and went to work for the CPA firm, Molitor, Doremus & Hanlin, later Hanlin & Merritt.
He then worked as the audit supervisor of the State of Alaska's Gaming Division, a position he retired from in 2014. On the side, he did tax returns for many of his friends and acquaintances over the years.
Jeff was preceded in death by his parents Bob and Kay Prather, a brother, Ernest, who died in infancy; his grandparents Ernest and Julia (McGaughey) Prather, his uncle and aunt, Ray and Betty Prather and cousin Janice, all of St. Louis, Missouri; grandparents Helen and James McAlister; aunts and uncles Patricia and Vernon Metcalfe, George Gullufsen Sr., of Juneau; and of Chicago, Illinois, Marilyn and Harold Kling and cousin Carol Kling.
Jeff is survived by his sister and brother-in-law Susie and Todd Kollar and their children, Carlie and Kieran; his aunt Caroline Gullufsen; cousins and their spouses David and Cathie Prather; Patrick Gullufsen and Kris Sell-Gullufsen, Carrie and Bob Haskell, George Gullufsen, Jr.; Mac and Ann Metcalfe, Kimberly Metcalfe Helmar, Peter and Sandy Metcalfe, Patrice and Bill Parker, Kathleen ""Teeny"" Metcalfe and Ray Brudie, Jake Metcalfe and Moira Smith, John and Gemma Metcalfe, Mark and Linda Metcalfe, and Heather and Ronnie Bell; Harold Kling, Jr., James Kling and Dennis Menoni, and Kelley and Thad Porter. Jeff is also survived by his longtime companion, Nancy Long of Maricopa, Arizona.
The family would like to thank the Toetuu and Paea families who cared so lovingly for Jeff during his final year.
A funeral Mass will be held at 3 p.m., Thursday, July 29th at the Catholic Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 416 5th Street in downtown Juneau. A wake will follow at 5 p.m. at 730 Gold Street.
Due to the increased risk for COVID-19, the family asks that those who attend the funeral and the wake wear masks and be fully vaccinated.
In lieu of flowers please consider contributions to the Parkinson's Foundation for Lewy body research. Cards of condolences can be mailed to Susie Kollar, P.O. Box 240036, Douglas, Alaska 99824.
Published by Juneau Empire from Jul. 25 to Aug. 24, 2021.