Legendary pilot, big game guide Urban Rahoi: 1919-2021 - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Legendary pilot, big game guide Urban Rahoi: 1919-2021

An Alaska legend has passed. Urban Rahoi of Fairbanks died on Thursday at age 102.

He was born Jan. 7, 1919. A World War II veteran, in his final years he was a resident of the Alaska Pioneers Home in Fairbanks.

“He was a one of a kind, he was a builder in this town, he fought five missions in Africa and Europe during WWII flying B-17s, and he raced snow machines at 101,” said Craig Compeau of Fairbanks, a close friend who had visited him just a few days ago. “Covid is the only thing that kept him from racing snow machines this year.”

Rahoi, to be clear, did not die of Covid, but just faded away.

Rahoi was born on Jan 7, 1919 in Iron Mountain, Mich. His interest in airplanes and flying started when he was a child. He did his first solo flight at age 15. At age 21, he met the woman who would become his lifelong love – Vienna. They married in 1940; she passed away in Urban’s arms on Jan. 3, 2010, just three days before their 70th wedding anniversary.

Rahoi joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, and he flew bombers in North Africa and Italy during World War II. “From Italy, we would fly bombing missions into southern Germany, Austria, Romania, and wherever they needed us,” he once said. He flew B-17s on dozens of bombing combat missions.

The couple moved to Alaska and homesteaded on the Tanana River close to the Richardson Highway. They had three children — Rick, Eugene, and Holly. He started his next career as a real estate developer, designing trailer parks, Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. He became a big game guide. When Alaska became a state and guides were required to register, he was issued the state’s first big game guide license: #1.

In 1947 he started Interior Airways with Al Wright and Jim Magoffin. Over his flying career, he’s survived three crashes.

A lifelong bush pilot, he was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by the FAA in 2012.

Rahoi also ran as a candidate for Alaska House of Representatives a few times, most recently in 2012. He served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.

Sen. Dan Sullivan remarked on his legendary life: “What really describes a life, when you think about your service in World War II, flying B-17s, and what you’ve done for our great state, literally it’s no exaggeration. You are part of the Greatest Generation, that saved America and built Alaska.”

Indeed, Rahoi ‘s flying career spanned over 80 years, and he has piloted his plane as recently as 2018.

For his 102nd birthday this year, friends gathered outside the Fairbanks Pioneers Home with placards wishing him a happy birthday, and they sang “Happy Birthday to You.”

He had many close friends who make up a coffee klatch group in Fairbanks known as the Laundry House Gang.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • “And now, a wave into the boundless skies”.
    We honor a fellow airman,,,

  • I didn’t know this man but I wish I had. Amazing life well lived ! RIP

  • What a special person! He truly was and is a real hero. They are rare these days. I have made a copy of this piece and will read it from time to time to remind me just how good some people are. It is very uplifting!

  • I bet he knew my father-in-law, who was also in the Army Air Corps as an aviation hydraulic specialist working on B-17s and B-24s in Italy and Africa during WWII. He used to talk about how the sky turned black because there were so many planes in the sky. He passed away 2 years ago. We are so grateful to the sacrifices these men made for us, their children. May God bless. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV

  • I never got to meet Urban when I lived in Fairbanks, but I sure knew his name.
    .
    A great American and a great Alaskan. RIP.
    .
    .
    As an aside, my understanding is that Andrew Berg held license #1, not that it matters much.

  • God Bless this man.
    Recently a close friend, he was 95 years old, he passed about a month ago. Yes he, just died of old age.
    Not from this covid bull crap.
    He fly bombers too, Funny how these old guys keep going.
    Yes we need to honor these Men and Women who fought for us, in which we are living in a Free nation, because of Them.
    Again God Bless these men. 😥

  • Some research revealed the difference:
    Berg had the first guide license in Alaska.
    Urban had the first guide license after we became a state.

  • Conservative to the core. Loved this guy!

  • He was an amazing man who never gave up and kept looking forward to his next project. I had talked to him a couple months ago and he was still wanting to go back to Ptarmigan Lake to check out the lodge. I had spent a winter out there in the 70’s and his energy level was off the charts. RIP Urban

  • As a youngster in the late ’40’s we moved to Fairbanks and my Dad operated a core drill at the Stampede Mine. The person that took us back and forth to the mine was…..Urban Rahoi. He flew supplies and ore from the mine in a Noordyne Norseman and I went on several back and forth trips with him and he let me “drive” the Norseman and my aviation career was started! Urban and Vienna visited with us many times at our home at 21st S. Turner St. until we left in 1950. RIP Urban!!

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