Fred Rungee at his cabin in September 2011.
Fred Rungee, everyone’s favorite mountain man in these parts, passed away on March 27, 2015 after spending more than 70 years in the Alaskan wilderness. He was ninety-three. After retiring from the BLM as a fire management officer, he moved to a remote valley near Slana, Alaska and built a cabin. His cabin, “a short two and a half mile hike up the creek and then another half mile of side-hilling along the lake”, kept Fred fit and ever young at heart.
Fred’s beloved Lake in winter. He loved the solitude of those long winter months.
Fred’s’ cabin, perched on a bench of bedrock overlooking a wilderness lake, is bear-proof and beautiful.
One of Fred’s’ final days at his wilderness cabin.
The old cross-cut saw kept the bears out of a small outbuilding.
Fred’s bear story. To listen to the audio clip, click on left side of the bar. Volume on right side.
Fred loved his gray jays.
Walking the trail near his cabin.
“Sit down and have something to eat.” Guests were always welcomed with a bite to eat. Living mostly out of tins of food, Fred claimed to have “traveled several miles” around the tops of those tin cans with a can opener.
Fred was friends on my Mothers side of the family since she was a young girl and Fred was my uncles Boy Scout leaders back in the 1950’s but when I was a young boy I remember Fred came back to the New Haven ct area every year or so and we would have him over for dinner and Fred alway brought his slide show with him and we would watch what seemed like a couple hundred slides and Fred would explain every picture and as a very young boy it was so exciting and Fred came to visit just prior to his passing and I was so excited to see him at the time I was in my late 50’s and it was like a childhood era and Fred gave me a LL Bean pocket knife in a leather sheath and I cherish that knife and rarely take it out as that was the last gift from Fred and the last time I was with Fred prior to his passing. Unless you ever had the pleasure or Honor to meet Fred never mind being his friend you will never meet another Man like Fred as he always had a smile but the stories he told were totally true to life and It’s been a total pleasure have Fred as my Friend and someone I will be forget.
Thank You Mr Rungree as you made my life that much more special Knowing you from a young child to an older gentleman and I will cherish our friendship for the Balance of my Life.
Thanks for this essay. Fred was a childhood friend of my father on City Point in New Haven. He’d visit once a year, when he’d come back East to visit family. I was captivated by the amazing stories he told of the world he inhabited. And I remember seeing slides of his cabin being constructed in the 1970s. It’s good to see the place again, and even more to see Fred’s smile a final time.
Thank you so much for these photos. My father was a smokejumper with Fred back in the early 1940s in the Civilian Public Service program when they were stationed in Missoula/Seeley Lake, Montana. I met Fred several times at reunions and loved to listen to his stories and hear his laugh. My parents kept in contact with him over the years and in fact, I am pretty sure the small canning jar sitting in front of the loaf of bread on his table was from my mom. Every year, she would send him her delicious homemade black raspberry jelly. I can’t wait to show her these pictures as dad and mom always wanted to visit Fred at his cabin, but were never able to do that. Dad passed away about 6 months before Fred and I am sure they are now having a grand ole time catching up with each other and telling their smokejumping stories in Heaven.
My father, Roger Burwell, worked with Fred from 1959 to 1964. Dad was the station manager in Anchorage and we visited Fred many times. We visited his lake when he first started building and accompanied him as he hauled his wood stove in on his back. I was 5 when we met and almost 10 when we moved to California. Fred has continued to be the hero of my childhood all these years. I remember the story of the bear mauling him as he clung to that small tree. Dad always said that was when Fred started carrying a gun even when he wasn’t hunting. I remember Fred’s stacks of National Geographics, the giant bowls of ice cream he served, pushing me on a swing for as long as I wanted, and the sound of his laugh mingled with that of my father’s as they told stories. He was a special person, beloved and irreplaceable.