People, Independence and Fishing: A Planned Gift’s Lasting Legacy in Bristol Bay

Planned giving transformed one woman’s passion for Bristol Bay into impact that will shape the region for generations.

Our work in Bristol Bay and across Alaska is built upon a coalition of people passionate about our communities and our fisheries thriving. One of those people was Jamie O’Day — a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman who passed away in 2021, but who made a planned gift to safeguard the place she loved.

Jamie O’Day fishing in Bristol Bay.

Jamie O’Day spent decades fishing in Bristol Bay and loved the region deeply. In 1979 as a 16-year-old, she followed in her father George and older brother Michael’s footsteps, coming to Alaska for the first time to fish a setnet site in Egegik. “She loved the people, independence and fishing,” said Jamie’s mother Marie O’Day. Jamie built lifelong relationships and bonds with the people and the waters of the region. She was able to put herself through college commercial fishing, and then spent many summers on leave from her day job as a bridge engineer, fishing from a cabin on the beach. ​“She just enjoyed it so much. She’d take all her vacation time and beg for extra so she got time to go up there. It meant a lot to her,” said Jamie’s brother Michael O’Day.

When Jamie passed, her family chose the Alaska Wild Salmon Fund (AWSF) — a project of Alaska Venture Fund — to honor Jamie’s dedication to Alaska’s salmon legacy, economy and cultural heritage. In lieu of flowers, Jamie’s friends and family made contributions in her name to the fund, recognizing her sustaining commitment to Bristol Bay. When Jamie’s estate was settled, an additional $50,000 bequest was made to the fund. Michael said he knew that Bristol Bay meant a lot to Jamie, even though they hadn’t previously discussed her planned bequest. “I’m glad some of the effort she put forward has gone to a good cause,” he said.

Legacy philanthropy, or planned giving, is an opportunity for individuals and families to commit to funding their vision of the future even long after they’re gone. Planned gifts can vary in size depending on an individual’s unique wishes and circumstances. “I didn’t know this was a possibility before Jamie passed,” said Marie when referring to the bequest. “I’m glad she did want to do something special with her money. Bristol Bay has certainly been good to our family. It would be a shame to have it go away.”

Jamie’s gift came at a pivotal time for Bristol Bay. All of the funds received on Jamie’s behalf were put to work in the fight to prevent the development of Pebble Mine, a huge open pit mine proposed in the heart of Bristol Bay’s salmon spawning habitat. Over the last year, the sustained efforts of local tribes, commercial fishing groups, communities and the broader Alaskan public came to fruition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency instituting Clean Water Act protections that prevent the proposed Pebble Mine from being developed. Additionally, a land conservation easement project by the Pedro Bay Corporation, The Conservation Fund and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust — funded in part by Alaska Venture Fund — effectively blocked the mine’s most viable transportation corridor from the mine to the coast. Such efforts are only possible with the generous support of donors large and small.

These victories are Jamie’s and her family’s victories as well. “She would have been so happy. She would have been through the roof. That would have been big for her,” said Michael.

Through the foresight of her planned gift, Jamie turned her passion for the fish and the waters of Bristol Bay into tangible action that will shape the region for generations.

When asked if there was anything else he’d like to share about Jamie, Michael said, “she just was a wonderful person and she and Bristol Bay just went really well together.”

Interested in supporting this work through planned giving opportunities at Alaska Venture Fund? We’d love to hear from you.

Published April 4, 2023

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