What’s up with Fran Tate?

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!



About steveandjohnnie

Award winning Chicago Broadcasters, inducted into WGN radio's Walk Of Fame. Authors of the Les Paul memoir, "A Little More Les." http://alittlemoreles.com You'll find even more about us at http://www.steveandjohnnie.com/
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35 Responses to What’s up with Fran Tate?

  1. Peter (Decatur) says:

    Thank you for the update. I, too, am worn out now, and I can’t feel sorry for myself for any “problems” I have in my life.

  2. joanm65@aol.com says:


    Thanks for the very loving update on Fran. I have long been wondering what was up with her. I will keep both her and her son in my prayers.

    Thanks again for the update, Joan M. Stockhof

  3. Elizabeth says:

    My goodness what energy! But as every mother knows, you carry on for others, Praying her son is better real soon.Thanks for the update and miss you madly!

  4. Pat says:

    How interesting hearing about Fran. I’d catch her on your show every once in awhile, and felt like I knew her personally. Miss that, and miss Steve and you too. That woman is amazing for her age and health issues. An inspiration. God bless her and her son.

  5. Carol says:

    What a fantastic way to start the new year finding out about Fran way up in Alaska! Thank u so much and I am praying for her son’s recovery. Now, Johnnie, how about an update on one of our other favorite people, Bob Young. Happy New Year.

  6. Michael W Barnard says:

    Fran is still awesome! Joe-Joe will be added to my prayer. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  7. doremijo@aol.com says:

    Thank you for sharing. I miss hearing her with you on WGN. Let’s face it, I miss you.

  8. Edith peters says:

    Thank you for sharing. This iis one of the parts of listening to WGN that imenjoyed the most!!

  9. Barbara Lorenz McNichol says:

    Johnnie, it was so good to “hear the news from up North once again – brings back so many good memories of sleepless nights spent with the best of friends, you, Steve and the inimitable Fran Tate! Please let her know she, Joe Joe and all her staff and friends up there are always in my thoughts & prayers. Miss you all so much! God bless!

  10. Gittel says:

    I also just thought about her this last week. It was so good to catch up on her activities and life. Thank you. How about an update on the two of you?

  11. Marty says:

    Thanks for the update, had Fran in my thoughts just recently. Why not consider an audio update every so often! Send Fran one of the USB microphones and talk as you had done with the Website Wednesday computer geeks. And for that matter, an audio update with those guys would be marvelous. Post on iTunes for all of us to enjoy.

  12. Karen says:

    Missing you guys but so glad to hear the update about Fran. I hope you both have a wonderful New Year filled with only good news.

  13. Char Lane says:

    So sorry to hear about Fran’s son. Loved hearing her on your show. PLEASE< PLEASE find a station to have your show. I miss you guys so so much.xoxo Happy New Year

  14. Terry Helwig says:

    Thanks so much for the Fran & family update.

  15. Sue Conrad says:

    Thanks for the update, miss you guys!

  16. Linda Sue says:

    It is so great to hear how well Fran Tate is doing. Isn’t it amazing how you can talk like old friends even after not talking to them for a year? And isn’t it amazing how you can talk to someone so far away and yet you are so close?!!!

  17. Barb Feinsinger says:

    It was so great hearing about Fran. I miss you guys so much on those sleepless nights.

  18. Janet says:

    I hope Joe-Joe is better in 2013. Thanks, for the update! J…anet

  19. John says:

    I often wish I could hear just one more night of the Steve and Johnnie show, with a call to Fran… Those were the days.

  20. Eddi Bartels says:

    Miss you guys so much,, but respect the fact that you know it is time for the two of you to enjoy a regular life.
    Thanks for the update on Fran. What is going on with Gregg Jarrett? I also liked his show and turn WGN off when Brandmeier is on.

  21. Nancy wheelam says:

    Thanks so much for update, sure do miss you both.

  22. Mary Cox says:

    Missing you always. fran is incredible and my [rayers are with Joe-Joe. Mary

  23. verna gembeck says:


  24. Silvia Rapacz says:

    Thank you for the Fran update, I hope her son gets up to speed soon. It’s good to hear from you. Miss you guys,

  25. Sue McNeil says:

    Was so glad to hear about Fran. Thanks for the update. Also wonder how Bob Young is doing. Miss you all.

  26. Marlene Duy says:

    Thank you for update on Fran, will be praying for her son.. God, do we all miss you and Steve>

  27. Shirley Younker says:

    Always enjoyed those late night conversations with Steve and Johnnie and Fran. She is the most interesting woman. A real down to earth person. I miss all of you.

  28. mary stauffer says:

    Thanks for update on Fran Tate. I “met” her through you on WGN years ago. Those were wonderful shows. Thanks ! Mary in Michigan

  29. NBSA says:

    Would love to meet her in person, I have just moved from Mexito to AK, and I heard about her. Inmediately, I went on line to by the book “Tacos on the Tundra”. I admire remarkable women all over the world and history.

  30. Cindy Shults says:

    Pepe’s just burned down! Ir’s gone.

  31. Great to see this article on her. You picked a worthy subject! 🙂

  32. Jim Case says:

    I just joined your blog because I was wondering what Fran Tate was up to. I have stories of Tate from 1982. I would like to communicate with her and share some ‘old times’. As example: our plan to have a ‘Taste of the North’ and stories of an evening when her kitchen crew joined the Polar Bear Club. And about the time her crew and I had a big bonfire out at Shooting Station that ended up in the burning of the guitar. Real good memories of my time in Alaska.

  33. Jim Case says:

    How do you know Fran and what is your ‘show’?

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