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Lucy Evelyn Huie Hon was born of German and Scotch-English parentage, a fifth-generation American, to Daniel Hon (1860-1929) and Margaret Pamelia Gaines Hon (1867-1939) on Aug. 2, 1889, in Waldren, Scott County, Ark. Her grandparents were farmers, her father a lawyer and a judge. The oldest of four, her siblings were: Mabel Fairfax Hon Woods (1892-1975), Mildred Foster Hon Murry (1897-1967) and Daniel Gaines Hon (1898-1950).
Cuddy graduated from college in 1911 and became a teacher. “I didn’t want to go to the University of Arkansas. … I wanted to go west. … My father told me what to do and I did it,” she is quoted as saying in an Anchorage Times article.
In 1916 the husband of a friend was the superintendent of schools in Valdez and sent her a cablegram offering her the position of principal to the upper level students – five high school students and three eighth graders. So after teaching school for five years, Cuddy left her family home by herself, traveled from Fort Smith, Ark., across the continent by train for four days and four nights, to Seattle, Wash., and then embarked on a seven-day boat trip to Valdez. She immediately fell in love with Alaska. When reminiscing, she used to say that as she walked down the long wooden walkway from the boat to town, the thing she remembered most was that it was 11 o’clock at night and it wasn’t dark yet, there were waterfalls and everything was so quiet. It was so peaceful.
Valdez was a bustling town of only 500, four men for every woman. In the 1970s she told an audience at the Anchorage Museum that she ate at a boarding house where there were about a dozen men and she was the only woman but not one of those men was someone you would want to marry, in fact, most would “bore the life out of you.” She would eventually meet Warren Cuddy, a young law graduate from Puget Sound College, and said he was worth the wait.
In many of her interviews Cuddy liked to tell the story of Warren’s proposal to her. She says a woman who was “quite the social dame” of Valdez asked her whether Warren had proposed yet. When Cuddy said no, she suggested that maybe if she would quit her incessant talking he might be able to get a sentence out and ask her.
Lucy Hon, 27, and Warren Ninde Cuddy, 30, were wed in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Ark., on Aug. 15, 1917. They returned to Valdez afterwards.
After a couple of years passed, the Cuddys had two boys, David Warren, born in 1919 and Daniel Hon, born in 1921. She claimed that the babies were the most important things that ever came into her life.
United States President Warren G. Harding and Vice President Herbert Hoover visited Alaska to mark the beginning of the railroad in 1923. Cuddy, normally a woman with impish humor, was tongue-tied as she presented the president a bouquet of blue flowers – historians question whether they really were forget-me-nots as many stories claimed.
In 1933 Warren Cuddy, a Republican, was Valdez District Attorney but politics changed that. He lost his job when the Democrats came to power. The family moved to Anchorage. He set up his law practice and she set about raising the boys. During the next few years, he purchased bank stock and by 1941 he had controlling interest and became the president of First National Bank.
World War II brought tragedy into their lives. Both her sons went off to war but only Dan came back. David was killed in action behind enemy lines in Anzio, Italy. “It was horrible,” Lucy Cuddy later recounted. “He was so against the war. But it was the war and it was your duty.”
Always a woman with lots of energy, she was a driving force in community affairs and helped organize the USO, the Girl Scouts of Anchorage, started the Nurses’ Aide program during WWII, helped found the Cook Inlet Historical Society and volunteered for the Red Cross, which she did most of her life.
She became a bank board member in 1949 and was elected to the office of board secretary. In 1951, upon her husband’s death of a heart attack at 65 years of age, son Dan took over the day-to-day banking, also serving as president, and Lucy Cuddy became chair of the board, a position she held until her death. It is said that she helped guide Alaska’s second-largest financial institution through booms and busts, earthquakes and floods, and expansion across the state.
In the same year she was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Alaska, 1956, she was named the chair of the Greater Anchorage United Fund Drive (now the United Way). She received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Arkansas in 1961, the third woman at the time to receive the honor. In 1972 the Anchorage campus community center of the University of Alaska was named Lucy Cuddy Hall.
In an article honoring her 90th birthday, the Anchorage Times says, “She is inseparable from this community. She inspires the best that dwells in the hearts of each us.” The same paper, two years later, in an article about her death called her “The Grand lady of Anchorage.”
Lucy Cuddy was laid to rest in the Anchorage Municipal Cemetery, Masonic Tract 9, Row 2, Lot 15.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/_70Dvlplz7w
- An interview with David Hayes, staff at First National Bank Alaska
- Anchorage Times, March 12, 1982, page 1 & 3
- We Alaskans, Anchorage Daily News Magazine, May 16, 1981, pages 7 & 13
- Arkansas, County Marriages Index, 1837-1957
- Lucy Hon Cuddy Dedication, The Teller, 1982, page 1
- Lucy Cuddy papers, Archives & Special Collections Consortium Library, UAA, Collection number HMC-0095,
- In Memorial http://www.muni.org/Departments/health/cemetery/Pages/honored.aspx
In her 66 years in Alaska, Lucy Cuddy helped thousands of people directly with her community support efforts. She was the first-year chair of the organization that became United Way of Anchorage. She was a tireless advocate, enlisting the help of the business community through her contacts as board chair of First National Bank.
Cuddy’s impact on Alaska began immediately after her train ride from her family home in Arkansas to Seattle and then a seven-day boat trip to Valdez in 1916. As principal of Valdez high school she taught all subjects except Latin, became a town leader, and even greeted President Harding when he came to town in 1923.
She met husband Warren in Valdez. After their marriage, they had two boys and moved to Anchorage in 1933 where she dove into community work. Her husband bought controlling interest in First National Bank where he became president and she was elected a board member and held the office of secretary. When Warren passed, son Dan took over as president and she became board chair – a role she held until her death 31 years later. She helped guide Alaska’s second-largest financial institution through booms and busts, earthquakes and floods, and expansion across the state.
The Anchorage Times said her impact cannot be overstated and called her “The Grand Lady of Anchorage.” She also served on the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents and the university named the Anchorage campus community center Lucy Cuddy Hall.
She liked to say, “When I grew up there was nothing for a girl to do except be a nurse or a type writer – not a secretary but a type writer – and teach school. Now women with training are eligible for any job.” In Alaska, it’s safe to say that Lucy Cuddy helped bring that change about.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/_70Dvlplz7w