Randy “Bear” Harrop, 57, died Saturday afternoon after suffering a heart attack at his Mud Bay Road home, said wife Kate Harrop.
The family is raising funds to defray burial costs. Services are pending.
Harrop was born April 26, 1956, at Oak Noll Naval Base near Oakland, Calif., and grew up in the San Jose suburb of Piedmont. His childhood included picking peaches and apricots at an orchard owned by his grandfather, Kate Harrop said.
Harrop worked briefly in the computer industry in California before taking a job as an equipment operator at Prudhoe Bay. An accident there crushed his hands, but he found work as a trucker in the Lower 48.
His wife said she was hitchhiking when she met Harrop at a truck stop in Pasco, Wash., in November 1984. He defended her against a customer who was harassing her, she said, and then he hired her to keep him awake during long-distance hauls.
They married the following spring. A leg injury Harrop suffered in a snowstorm that winter sidelined his trucking career and he and Kate bartered for rent and scraped by, eventually buying a trailer home on two acres outside Bend, Ore., where they kept livestock.
In 1995, the Harrops – with children Johnathan and Katharina – headed north, having bought a piece of land off FAA Road in Haines sight unseen from an Oregon preschool teacher.
“Bend was too hot and not cold enough. We always wanted to see one of the ‘A’s’ – Alaska or Australia,” Kate Harrop said. The couple drove the Alaska Highway towing a boat and a trailer and settled into a place on Cemetery Hill. The couple operated a craft and pet supply store downtown, featuring their own, hand-made crafts and Harrop also had a business helping others get their Social Security benefits.
Kate Harrop said sportfishing, hunting and camping were her husband’s main hobbies. “He was out there fishing for everything.” Harrop also harvested crab and shrimp and he was making preparations for a camping trip when he died, she said.
She said her husband’s nickname came from a Prudhoe Bay co-worker when Harrop was working in a T-shirt and vest, tossing around oil drums in 40-below weather. “He said, ‘You’re just like a polar bear.’” As a trucker, it became his radio handle. “He hated the name Randy. Everyone knew him as ‘Bear.’”
Harrop suffered a heart attack last spring. About 10 years ago, part of one leg was removed due to an infection and diabetes.
Harrop is survived by mother Geraldine of San Jose; by father Joseph David Solins of San Jose; by sister Lisa Solins and by brother Mark Solins of San Jose; by wife Kate Harrop of Haines; by children John Harrop of Fairbanks and Katie Harrop Whitley of Haines; and by grandson Johnathan Slade Whitley. He also is survived by friend Chuck Davis of Haines.
Harrop is preceded in death by stepfather John Harrop.
Cards or donations to help pay costs of burial may be sent to the Harrops at P.O. Box 608, Haines, AK 99827. Kate Harrop said her daughter also needs help moving.