Roy Jake Tansy was born in Valdez Creek (C’ilaan Na’ - “abundant game creek”) in a
tent March 16, 1934. He was the 2nd born child of Jake and Lily Tansy after his
sister Jane. Roy was blessed to have 4 younger siblings, Alfred, Louise, Helga and
Ruby. Roy talked about the fact that they helped their dad build the house in
Cantwell (Yedatene Na –“River behind the mountain”). He said he was 8 years old
the first time he lived in a house. Until then, they lived between Valdez Creek,
Cantwell and Brushkana.
He talked fondly about the years he played hockey while in school. He grew up
hunting moose, caribou, sheep, bear and fishing. He loved to tell stories of trips
into the mountains around Cantwell. Roy will be fondly remembered for all the
stories of his youth. Roy’s best friend growing up was Eric Carlson, they were each
other’s best men at their weddings and Roy loved visiting with Eric and talking to
him in his Ahtna language.
As an adult, Roy became a heavy equipment operator and was a proud member of
the Operator’s Local 302. He helped build the road from Cantwell to Denali
National Park and the Park road. His favorite heavy equipment was the crane. But
he was seen often on backhoes and bulldozers.
Roy was 33 when he met the love of his life! Irene Widmark was going to UAF at
the same time as Roy’s sister Ruby. Roy would come to Fairbanks to visit and would
take Ruby and Irene to dinner. He started asking her to marry him right away.
For a year Irene thought he was joking. One day she realized he was serious :)
She told him that he needed to ask her dad and they were married 5 months later
June 1, 1968.
After the birth of their daughter Carmel Lillian and son Roy Jake Jr., Roy decided
to further his education. He earned an associate’s degree in Accounting at Sawyer
Business College in Los Angeles, CA in 1974. After a brief time, Roy returned to
heavy equipment operating and helped build the Pipeline. It was during these
years, their youngest son, Douglas Alan was born. Roy later worked for Alyeska as
a P & CM pump station manager. He worked there until he retired in 2002.
Roy was active in the Native community fighting for their rights. He was the first
president of the Cantwell Alaska Native Brotherhood. Roy served on boards such
as Fairbanks Native Association and Tanana Chiefs Conference Board before
ANCSA. He was a Doyon board member soon after ANCSA. He served on the
Cantwell SVO ever since Cantwell merged with Ahtna. Roy was Ahtna president
while Ahtna settled with Alyeska over the use of Ahtna lands. He was on the
Ahtna Heritage Foundation as an Elder Advisor. Roy later served as an Ahtna
Board member for many years working for the betterment of all native peoples and
Roy lived a life of adventure and constant activity. He was invited to the White
House under President Ford…. worked 365 days straight one year ….. went on a trip
of a lifetime to Japan with his wife Irene for their 40 year anniversary ….. worked
in every corner of AK ….. went to the Superbowl with his son Douglas when he was
80 ….ate at the top of the World Trade Center….has been on the floor at Wall
Street...drove at least 17 roundtrips on the AlCan and was living and working in
Dallas when President Kennedy was shot. Roy had a dream of becoming a pilot.
One day he came home and told Irene he had bought a plane. He would then earn
his pilot’s license. Because Roy was flying, Irene had to learn too. Roy flew
actively with Civil Air Patrol in Gulkana. He spent countless hours flying around the
state of Alaska to see family or even just to enjoy a piece of pie.
Roy and Irene loved people! They had a deep sense of love for their family and
cultural traditions. It was often said, wherever they travelled anywhere in the
world, they would see a longtime friend. After 40 years of marriage, Irene died in
a tragic accident in 2009. Roy forever felt this loss. He then realized his
greatest hope to see Irene again was to follow Jesus. He became a beloved active
member of Hamilton Acres Baptist Church.
Roy was blessed with the love of his growing family as Carmel married Doug Read.
Their 7 kids adored both Grandpa and Grandma Tansy. Roy Jr married Martha and
has a daughter Elli. She loves the things Grandpa Tansy loved, for example,
hunting, being outdoors and love of culture. Douglas married Kristine and blessed
Grandpa Tansy with 5 wonderful grandkids. Grandpa Tansy spent the last 5 years
of his life living with Douglas and his family in Fairbanks. It was a happy
arrangement and he enjoyed his family! Those 5 years were filled with lots of
adventures and precious times hearing Grandpa’s stories, life lessons and
Roy was a big guy. He had a heart, love and personality that matched. What he did
he did big. Jan 10th, as Roy deteriorated from COVID-19, his family was making
preparations to bring him home under hospice care. He was glad to hear he was
going home and went straight to Heaven instead. As we mourn the big loss in our
lives, we can only imagine the huge celebration he is having with Irene, his parents,
his brother Alfred, his sister Ruby, his grandson Josiah, and all his friends and
family that have gone before!
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