How Bethel Search and Rescue was started

by Betty Pete

My name is Betty Pete from Bethel. My husband was Fred Pete Sr. He passed away September 10, 2005. Age 71. My husband was supposed to write how Bethel Search and Rescue started.

After he retired from work at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation we were hardly home in Bethel. We were always going back and forth to the cabin in Aniak River or some place. He said he do not have time to sit down and write. He said he was tired of pushing pencil in the office for 22 years.

He told me to write how it all started – search and rescue started – because I was always there to take message or there to help.

In 1978, December 16 we decide to go Christmas shopping on weekend in Anchorage for weekend fair. We left Friday and suppose to go back to Bethel December 20. When we were in the hotel that evening Fred Jr. called and he said his brother Frank Pete did not make it back to Bethel that evening December 16, 1978.

Fred Jr. and Frank Pete took off with two snowmachines to go ptarmigan hunting and after they left Bethel, it started snowing and they lost each other. Fred Jr. made it back to Bethel. Frank Pete got lost when it got whiteout snowing.

So Fred Sr. took morning flight back to Bethel to search for his son Frank.

Fred called me at the hotel and he said they were searching. Some men and planes flying, troopers and police all over tundra.

My sister-in-law came to hotel to be with me.

I made it back to Bethel December 19, 1978. That afternoon we had call from Troopers. Frank Pete’s body was found. Two young men found him laying on top of the grass that was sticking from the snow. He died of hypothermia.

Later on when everything was all over Alaska State Trooper talk to Fred Pete Sr. to start Search and Rescue Team in Bethel. So Fred talk to 2 men and they said “no,” they have family to support and feed. Fred would write down names. First one was Peter Isaac Sr., then Jimmie Aloysius and Pavilla Bayayok.

I do not remember the rest of the names. My husband Fred told me these three were always willing to help.

Now the wives were always there to help to get food ready for searchers to eat. Betty Isaac – Peter Isaac’s wife, and Florence Bayayok, and Betty Pete. We always used to call each other what food we prepared. We all had radios, VHF, in our houses. We listened to the men talking where they are searching.

All three ladies are now all in their 70s or over. How the years fly by so fast.

The men used their own money to buy gas. Us ladies used our food from deep freezers and whatever we used to prepare food for the men to bring. This is when Search and Rescue started. Still new. Later on donations of food and gas started.

I got tired of answering the VHF radio and phone calls every time someone is lost or drowned. I told Fred to talk to police, Alaska State Troopers to have Search and Rescue office in their office and radios. Or to call police or Troopers when someone is lost or drowned. So everyone started calling police or Troopers.

All over the villages and Bethel people always help each other when someone is lost or drowned. But they did not have a name for the searchers.

I am very proud of the Search and Rescue teams up and down the River for their wonderful work. It was hard for me to write this letter. I am so glad I did. So many memories.

When my husband was alive we used to go fiddle dance and watch everyone getting an award. I said to Fred one time, “How come you do not get award?”

Fred said, “I do not need award. I will get my reward in heaven.”

I want to thank all the people all over Alaska for all their prayers and kindness, prayers are so strong. I found that out.

God bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving.

From: Betty Pete, Bethel Alaska

Example: 9075434113