Rudy Gavora, father, son, and brother, died suddenly on February 27. He was a lifelong Alaskan and successful businessman. He leaves behind a shocked and grieving family, friends and business associates in the Fairbanks area. He was 61.
Rudolf Lee Gavora was born November 19, 1958 in the territory of Alaska. He was the second son and fourth child of Donna and Paul Gavora. They had moved their young family up to the territory just a few months before Rudy was born. Paul and Donna had come to Alaska to find opportunity and build a family. They achieved both. Six weeks after Rudy’s birth, Alaska became a state and that state became their lifelong home. Rudy was named after his paternal grandfather.
Rudy was a strong, entertaining and occasionally disruptive presence in the Gavora household growing up. He would eventually have eight brothers and sisters whom he enjoyed teasing. He was known to make up songs about random parts of life in the family. He could often be found playing basketball in the driveway in front of the house in Sunny Hills Terrace.
Rudy loved food and a good joke. He enjoyed late-night sandwiches, both his own and those he encouraged his siblings to make for him. He spent many summers grudgingly clearing underbrush from the land around the house. Paul wanted his property to more resemble his native Czechoslovakia. Rudy literally wanted to spend his summer doing anything else.
Listed in his yearbook for the West Valley Class of 1977 as Rudy “White Shoes” Gavora, he was a talented and dedicated football and basketball player. He attended the University of Puget Sound and graduated with a degree in economics in 1981.
All Gavora children began working in the family business as teenagers in the bakery or bagging groceries. After college, Rudy came home to continue to contribute, only now as a leader. He managed a number of the Market Basket stores in the early 1980s. After a difficult bankruptcy in 1987, Rudy became president of Market Basket in 1990. Under intense competition from the big box stores that had come to Alaska, he switched business strategies. Rudy was able to transform the surviving liquor business into a growing chain of gas and convenience stores.
Rudy loved Alaska and all that it had to offer. Whenever he could, he would be out fishing, hunting, trapping and hanging out in the midnight sun at Healy Lake. He loved and supported his community as well. He supported dog mushing and other community events in North Pole. He was a great fan and supporter of Monroe High School athletics. Rudy was one of the founders of Monroe football.
On March 4th, 1989, Rudy married Jena Teply. They had a daughter, Cali, and a son, Nicolas.
In business and in life, Rudy was a natural leader. He was gregarious and opinionated. But behind that exterior was a gentler, more contemplative person.
In September, 2019 Rudy was attempting to take off in his PA-12 Super Cruiser over Healy Lake when the high winds unexpectedly shifted. The plane fell over 100 feet and the tips of the floats caught the surface of the lake. The plane rolled forward and crashed into the water. Rudy found himself completely submerged, upside down, and strapped into the pilot’s seat. He and his passenger, Mike Lund, managed to get out of the wreck and made it to an island in the lake. They waited eight hours to be rescued.
Later, Rudy was philosophical about the crash. He said he knew two things. First, he would never fly again. And second, all that mattered was that he and Mike – and Rudy’s dog, Jesse, who had been in the back seat – survived.
Rudy leaves behind his children, Cali and Nicolas Gavora; his brothers and sisters
Alexandra Gavora, Daniel Gavora, Steven Gavora, Jessica Gavora, Jennifer Button, Carrie Gavora and Matthew Gavora; 17 nieces and nephews; and a great nephew and great niece.
He was preceded in death by Donna, Paul and his sister, Pauli Gavora.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, March 11, at 3:30pm in the Holy Family Chapel of Monroe High School.
In lieu of flowers, the Gavora family asks that donations be made in Rudy’s name to Monroe High School athletics.
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