Some of the most often asked questions we get are “What’s up with Fran Tate?” and “Have you talked with Fran lately?” Since we first encountered this amazing woman, along with us, many of you have been fascinated with our “Barrow, Alaska Bureau Chief,” the incredible Fran Tate.
Fran works a 15 hour day, 7 days a week at her world renowned restaurant, Pepe’s North of the Border. I took a chance calling her on New Year’s Day and I was shocked when she answered the phone! I thought my chances of having 5 minutes with her were slim but, I’d forgotten that New Year’s day is the ONLY day of the year she is closed. She was in the office doing her books and filling out orders for the new year. Remember, every avocado, head of lettuce, precious tomato, meat, tortilla etc. has to be flown in from Anchorage. She seemed happy to have an excuse to chat and we hadn’t spoken in months so, there was alot of catching up to do!
The big news in Barrow was the the large dividend check some 11,000 natives received in early Dec. That money meant many of the locals had money to eat restaurant meals and have catered parties all supplied by Pepe’s. Fran said she remembers taking naps each night but, there was so much business she was practically working around the clock. She also said that planes from Anchorage were bringing packages from the lower 48 in daily. Everything from Sears to Nordstrom’s! Remember the locals don’t have a mall to visit or even a car dealership or snow machine store to spend their money.
Fran was especially taxed in the month of Dec. because of the high volume of business, but also her right-hand man and son, Joe Joe, was hospitalized in Anchorage. The good news was when Joe Joe had a stroke in early November he was airlifted immediately to Anchorage. While there he was comatose for 11 days. In late Nov. he was moved to a rehab facility in Wasilla where he is working on regaining use of his left side. Fran talks with Joe Joe everyday at 6 and plans on getting down to Anchorage in mid-Jan. when he is scheduled for bi-pass surgery. She was thankful to be so busy to keep her mind from fretting too much over her son. Joe Joe, much like Fran, is an integral part of life in Barrow. He takes visitors on trips to the shore to look for polar bears and native wildlife and acts as the local tour guide.
We finally got around to Fran’s health. As many of you know there have been a number of health scares over the years from her insulin-controlled diabetes, heart related scares and various other maladies but, this time, she seemed fit as a fiddle. Her voice was so strong and animated. The woman thrives on work and I think it is her daily medicine! Just talking about her schedule made me want to stretch out for a nap!!
She was so happy to get the 70 plus Christmas cards from listeners that all mentioned how much they missed her chats with us on the radio. You know she is in the Guiness Book of World Records for the business that sends out the most hand-signed Christmas cards. Remember, if you are expecting a card from Fran and haven’t received it yet she may not get them in the mail til March! Happy Easter!! Thank you all for continuing to remember her. It is obvious everytime we speak to her, even though she stays busy, the relationship she had with you and WGN Radio is very special to her.
Keep Joe-Joe in your prayers and if this post prompts you to drop her a line at Pepe’s (1204 Agvik Street, Barrow, AK 99723) she would love to hear from you but, remember, working 15-16 hour days she may not get back to you for awhile.
Our conversation was good medicine for me…I’m energized! I think I can tackle organizing my office but, first I may need to nap on it!