ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Nancy McGuire, the longtime publisher of Alaska’s oldest newspaper, said goodbye to her subscribers in an editorial published Thursday, the day she died after battling cancer for years. She was 72.
McGuire was publisher of the weekly Nome Nugget for 34 years in the western Alaska town of Nome. Her friend and former Nome mayor, John Handeland, said McGuire died at a local long-term care facility.
Even as her health waned, McGuire was determined to remain in Nome instead of seeking medical treatment elsewhere.
“Nome was her home and this is where she wanted to stay,” Handeland said.
The Nugget was established in 1897, thriving in the rough-and-tumble Gold Rush town.
In an editorial published in the newspaper Thursday, McGuire said goodbye, telling readers she hoped her editorials had stimulated thought about what was happening in the community over the years.
“I have loved Nome and the folks in our community and our village neighbours since the day I took over in 1982,” she wrote. “I must depart soon. I will bid an affectionate farewell to all.”
McGuire was born in Pennsylvania December 15, 1943, and grew up on a farm according to Handeland, who did not know what part of the state.
Before moving to Nome in 1973, McGuire taught secondary school science, according to Larry Campbell, a former Alaska bureau chief for The Associated Press. Handeland said McGuire taught in secondary and university settings before she moved to Nome in 1973, initially for a position at the University of Alaska’s northwest campus.
Among other endeavours, she also was a part-time reporter for the Nugget, which she purchased in 1982, launching her decades-long career as editor and publisher. Handeland said arrangements have been made to keep the newspaper running under private ownership as McGuire had. He did not provide details on the ownership.
“She was very proud of the newspaper and wanted to continue it as an independent newspaper,” he said.
In 2012, the Alaska Press Club presented McGuire with its First Amendment Award, saying she worked “tirelessly to advocate on behalf of her community’s right to know.”
The club called her a “fearless, unapologetic journalist” who was unafraid to use press freedoms to tackle controversial issues in the frontier town of 3,800.
Campbell noted the Nome area is a “hard, hard place to cover.” But McGuire was up to the task.
“She was an absolute journalist,” he said. “She didn’t practice small town or big town. She just practiced journalism.”
Handeland said survivors include McGuire’s brother Robert McGuire in Pennsylvania.
A funeral mass is set for Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Nome, with a celebration of life tentatively planned for July.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.
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