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Alaska musician Hobo Jim dies just over two weeks after announcing end-stage cancer diagnosis

Hobo Jim performing
Hobo Jim performing(Courtesy James Varsos)
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 3:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - James Varsos, better known to most as Hobo Jim and Alaska’s State Balladeer, has died. He was 68.

Jim had been a musical icon in Alaska for over 40 years. Late last month, he announced that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness: end-stage cancer. His doctor had told him he only had three to six months to live.

“I’ve never feared death and I’ve never feared what comes next — I’m good to meet my God at anytime, I always have been, so that part doesn’t bother me,” Jim said at the time. “In truth, the devastating thing to me is those I leave behind, in particular, my wife.”

READ MORE: Alaska musician Hobo Jim reflects on career after announcing end-stage cancer diagnosis

Varsos’ wife, Cyndi Varsos, confirmed with Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday that he died at 12:20 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5. He died in Tennessee, with her by his side.

“Unfortunately the cancer took him from us much faster than we expected,” his brother, Steve Varsos, wrote on Facebook. “We are all still struggling with his passing as we hardly had time to deal with his diagnosis. Our family deeply appreciates the outpouring of love and prayers from everyone. A special thank you to everyone in Alaska for the years of love and support you have given Jim and Cyndi! I know Jim lived and died a proud Alaskan!”

Jim was not only known for his unique and catchy songs about the 49th state, but also his warm, genuine and humble personality. Many in Alaska grew up singing the “Iditarod Trail Song” in school — a Hobo Jim classic. The tune changed his whole career, and even became the official song of the Iditarod.

Upon hearing the news, many Alaskans took to social media to share condolences late Tuesday and on Wednesday, as well as favorite memories and stories of how they met Alaska’s State Balladeer.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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