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~ End of the Trail ~


Dick Wilmarth
Is there anything more classically Alaskan than a guy entering a sled dog race in order to buy some yellow machinery for his gold mine? That almost sounds like the beginning to a bad movie, but there is a man who really did that.

Perhaps like most people we only remember his name and maybe one of those pictures of him in his parka, the hood thrown back and a big smile on his face. And it seemed for Dick Wilmarth that was the way he preferred it.

He took his chances out on the edge, what one Alaska sourdough called a perimeter man, someone who lives in the fringe of society choosing to avoid the fuss and fury of the center, preferring instead a small gold camp or the wilds of rivers, mountains and tundra where he turned enough of a living to keep going, underwent difficulties that would have discouraged if not killed mortal men and he did it with an outward nonchalance and a smile.

He lived so far out on the the edge that if it hadn't been for the Iditarod most of us would never have heard the name Dick
Wilmarth.

Then again, if we hadn't heard of Dick Wilmarth, we might never have heard of the Iditarod.
The way the story goes, during that first race, a group of the leaders gathered in a tent on the Yukon River somewhere. The location changes with the telling. But most agree the leaders were talking about quitting. They did say, however, it had to be unanimous. That was about the time Dick stuck his head into the tent and asked what was going on. Someone explained it to him. His only response was, "Well, I'm going to Nome," and off he went, dragging the rest of them behind him to finish the race, proving it was possible and leaving them to get ready for next year.
Some of the people in that tent went on to run the race several more times. There was at least one future winner involved. But Dick never raced again.

He had won the money to buy his yellow machinery and for him that was what it was about. How many bush people do you know? Have you ever noticed if you ask them what they do for fun you get a blank stare? That's because in the Bush you always have to be on your toes, always aware and there is always something that needs doing. What others see as drudgery, the perimeter people find satisfying, even pleasurable, but it's never about having fun. Not too long ago I was talking with one of the winners from the old days. He was complaining that some guy in the Iditarod had scratched saying it just wasn't fun. This guy said it was never fun, it was diffiult. But, pleasureable, nonetheless? I asked. He smiled.

And that was my guess about how Dick Wilmarth viewed the Iditarod, a means to an end. Other people wanted to race. He wanted a bulldozer. That fit into his life better than an annual dog race.

So after the race he went back to his perimeter and the life he had chosen and lived for the next 45 years, much like the life of someone like him might have lived a hundred years earlier, only without television. We are left to imagine the hardships, the joys, the satisfaction and yes, maybe even the fun that life gave him.

Sadly he may have been one of the last true Alaska perimeter men and whether we knew him personally or not, it's like the mountains around us that most of us will never climb but we are glad they're there. So too do we like the idea it's still possible to live on the Alaska perimeter as evidenced by people like Dick Wilmarth. But last week we lost one of those mountains and he has left a hole in our lives if we are willing to admit it.

It wasn't just in the Iditarod that he led the way.

~ Tim Jones

NOTE:
A Memorial service for Dick Wilmarth will be Monday, April 16
 at 2 PM - 5 PM at the American Legion Susitna Valley Post 35 in Wasilla.




Rudy Demoski (1945- 2018)
Rudy Demoski died peacefully at his home in Wasilla, Alaska, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, with his loving wife, children, siblings and friends by his side. He had courageously fought lung cancer for the past year.

Rudy was born in Holikachuk, Alaska, to Edward and Lina Demoski. For the first 18 years of his life, he lived a subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing, logging and trapping in Anvik and Blackburn, Alaska. He had also lived and worked in King Cove, McGrath and Knik, Alaska, before settling in Wasilla.

He worked as a carpenter, commercial fisherman, trapper and hunting guide, but his true love was raising and racing sled dogs. He ran the Iditarod Sled Dog Race seven times and his best finishes were 4th and 9th. In 2013, after not racing for 27 years, he came out of retirement to race one last time.

Rudy is survived by his wife, Diane; mother, Lina; several siblings; six children; 16 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His children are: Rosetta Alcantra (John), Ruby Christiansen, Roberta Demoski (Mike), Rebecca Newman (Harlan), Rudy Demoski Jr. (Nicole) and Amanda Powers (Artie).

His friends and family described Rudy as always a happy guy, honest, hardworking, courageous and strong, but gentle; he lived his life with no regrets and believed age was just a number. They said he had a smile for everyone. He was a true friend to so many people across Alaska and the Lower 48.

His wife, Diane, described their life together as an unforgettable adventure and her most memorable moment was when he thanked her for loving him.

We believe that all of Rudy's family and friends feel the same as his 4-year-old grandson Alex who, when asked who he was thankful for, he replied "My Papa."

Condolences may be mailed to Diane at 430 West Fallen Leaf Circle, Wasilla, AK 99654.
Arrangements cared for by Janssen's Mat-Su Funeral Home.






Joe (Joee) Redington, Jr


Joee Redington Jr. passed away peacefully Aug. 14, 2017. He liked to tell people he was born on a reservation, albeit a military reservation, Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He and his family came to Alaska and homesteaded on Knik Road in 1948. In the early 1950s Joe Sr.

moved his family to Flathorn Lake, 5 miles up Fish Creek, off the Susitna River. He and his family commercial fished in Cook Inlet in the summer and mushed dogs in the winter. Each of the boys had his own fish camp and a set net site at the mouth of the Big Susitna River. At age 15, Joee routinely crossed Cook Inlet, going to Anchorage or Knik in a 26-foot wooden dory with two to four outboard motors on the transom. He hauled dog food, lumber and supplies to Flathorn or visited his grandfather in Knik.

In 1956, he entered the Junior Fur Rendezvous Race, which was run off Fourth Avenue. He came in last; the only person still on the street was his mom. In 1961, his last year as a junior, he won the Junior Fur Rendezvous and the Junior Open North American. In 1964, he was drafted into the Army and was assigned to the biathlon unit as a dog driver. Both the Army and Air Force fielded a team. Joee won the World Championship Fur Rendezvous in 1966 for the Army. He appeared on the TV show "To Tell the Truth" in 1966 after winning the race. He had memorable stories about New York, the hotel and the show. He saw his first revolving door; he called it a squirrel cage. He watched the people of New York go to work in the mornings, go down the elevator in the apartment building to the street, down to the subway and pop up in another building to work. At the end of the day it reversed. He described it was like watching the tide come in and go out. Everyone wore a trench coat, so he bought one too.

Joee won many races in Alaska and was always a threat in any event he entered. Joee raced all across Alaska, Canada, New York and New Hampshire, and the Mid-West circuit. He semi-retired from racing by himself in about 2010, but worked with Jeff Conn, Jason Dunlap and Gary Markley to race combined teams for a few years. In 2014, he raised his last litters of pups, which he and Pam continued to train. In 2017, dogs from these litters ran in the teams of Gary Markley, Emilie Entrikin, Marvin Kokrine, Dave Turner and Luke Sampson. Four of those dogs, one of which was the leader, ran in Roxy Wright's winning Fur Rondy and Open North American teams.

Joee was an icon in the mushing world, racing sprint (Fur Rondy and Open North American), mid-distance (Knik 100) and long distance (Iditarod in 1974 and 1975), placing ninth and third, respectively. His interests ranged to all types of mushing, and he believed in the versatility of the Alaskan husky, a breed that could do it all.

He was preceded in death by his father, Joe Redington, Sr., and his mother, Catherine Brodhead; his stepmother, Violet Redington; and stepfather, Tom Brodhead; his sister, Sheila; and brother, Keith.

He is survived by his wife, Pam; and two children, Joee Ray Redington (Melanie) and Heather Redington (Jamie McGee); two grandsons, Jacob Catlin and Robert Lee; brothers, Raymie (Barbara) and Tim Redington; nephews, Ray Jr., Vernon, Ryan and Robert Redington, Jamie and Jerry Aamodt; and nieces, Laurie and Lisa Redington and their families.

The funeral was be held in Manley Hot Springs. Aug. 21, 2017





Jules Mead


The Iditarod family has lost a dear friend.  Jules Mead and I worked together for many years on the Iditarod Trail Committee Board of Directors.  Our office was above Teeland's Country Store and Moonshine Shop in Wasilla.  Jules and Leslie rented the space to us for $1 a year and paid for the electricity. Leslie made us a great dinner almost every night and I got to watch their kids grow and become the extraordinary people they are today. Jules told me recently, "I love the Iditarod and would do anything for for it."  The first gathering of the Old Iditarod Gang to talk about creating a book about the early history of the Race was held at Jules and Leslie's home a few years back.  The book is now a reality, "Iditarod, the First Ten Years".  Thank you Jules, for everything you have done for the Iditarod Race, the Historic Iditarod Trail and for making this world a better place to be.  You will be greatly missed. ~ Raine Hall-Rawlins

Julian Mead of Wasilla, Alaska, passed away April 18, 2017, surrounded by his family. Jules was born in Evanston, Illinois, to Paul and Louise Mead on December 20, 1938. He is survived by his wife, Leslie Mead, and four children, Brian Mead, Kelle Deluca, Jennifer Dawkins, and David Mead.

In 1965, Jules met Leslie in Evanston, Illinois, and married a year later. In 1972, with their young family, they made the trek to Alaska and immediately fell in love with its rugged beauty and vast opportunities. They settled in Wasilla and bought Teeland’s Country Store.

​In 1979 Jules gave a home to the newly formed Iditarod Trail Race, upstairs in Teeland’s Country Store. He supported the Iditarod as a sponsor, volunteer, Treasurer, Vice-President, and Executive Director. Jules continued his support by serving as the Treasurer of the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance from 2012 until his passing.​

Jules loved adventure, traveling with his wife, entertaining friends and family, a round of golf, and a good glass of red wine.

The Memorial Celebration of Life for Julian Edmond Mead will be held at the Albatross at Settlers Bay Golf Course, Sunday, June 11, 2017, starting at 2 p.m.







We have lost dear friend and long time Iditarod family member, Greg Bill. Greg passed away at his home in the Valley on December 10th, surrounded by his wife Annie and daughter Megan and friends. He has been a strong part of the fabric of our lives for so long. His tenure with Iditarod started in 1973 as a volunteer doing whatever he could to help the inaugural race succeed. Greg went on to become an ITC board member, an executive director and a tireless supporter helping to raise thousands of dollars to keep the Race alive. When Bill retired in 2014, he was awarded the HERBIE NAYOKPUK Spirit of Iditarod Award for "exceptional effort and dedication to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race."

Perhaps it is best to let Bill put it in his own words:

A Promise Kept by Greg Bill

In June of 1999, a very special phone call came in to Iditarod Headquarters. It was from Joee Redington and he stated that his Dad wanted me and Stan Hooley to come see him at his house. I knew that Joe Sr. was dying, and this would probably be my last chance to visit with him.

That afternoon, as I walked into Joe’s living room, it struck me that besides being ravished from his terminal illness, Joe had a look on his face that told me that he had something very pressing on his mind. After exchanging some small talk, I asked Joe what was causing the very worried look. After a few minutes, Joe confided to me that he was worried that “His Race” might also die after he was gone. I held his hand and looked him straight in the eye and told him that he didn’t have to worry about that, because there were too many people and sponsors that truly cared about the Iditarod, and that would never happen. Plus, I promised Joe that as long as I was around, I personally would never let that happen. That brought a look of relief to Joe’s face, and more importantly, one of his famous crooked little smiles. I truly felt that Joe now knew that he could “go in peace,” and that everything would be all right. He died two days later.

My request to everyone near and dear to the Iditarod, is that you continue to carry out my promise to Joe, and see that “His Race” will never die.

 

 

Thank you Greg, for keeping that promise. We will carry
on and salute you as the dog teams head up the trail to Nome
this year. We will miss you. Godspeed.



photo by Jeff Schultz







George Attla


On Feb. 15, 2015, legendary Alaska sprint dog musher George Attla Jr., passed away peacefully at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage surrounded by family and friends after a brief battle with cancer.
 
George was born Aug. 8, 1933, at a fish camp just below Koyukuk on the Yukon River to the late Eliza and George Attla Sr. His parents traveled to the Yukon River from their home village of Huslia, which is on the Koyukuk River. George was raised in a subsistence lifestyle and spent the majority of his time at fish camp, cabins and spring camp until he contracted tuberculosis and underwent nearly 10 years of treatment in Sitka.

George began his mushing career in the 1950s and became a legendary open-class sprint dog racer. George was revered and respected throughout the world for his dog mushing career, which spanned five decades. 

The movie "Spirit of the Wind" was based on his life. A book of the same title was also published. His book "Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs" is still considered the musher's guide.

Known as the Huslia Hustler, George won 10 Fur Rendezvous World Championship Dog Races, eight North American World Championships and nine International Sled Dog Racing Association unlimited class medals. 2008 marked his 50th year of competitive sled dog racing. In 2011, George won the Bergman Sam Memorial Koyukuk River Championship in Huslia.

Gov. Steve Cowper proclaimed April 29, 1988, as "George Attla Day." In 2000, George was awarded the Best Musher of the 20th Century. In 2007, he was inducted into the first Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.Most recently, George established the Frank Attla Youth & Sled Dog Care-Mushing Program in memory of his late son.  He was able to pass on his knowledge, lifelong experience and passion for dog racing to the younger generation. One of his students, Joe Bifelt, plans on racing in the 2015 Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race.

He was preceded in death by his parents, George Sr. and Eliza Attla; brothers, Steven Attla Sr. and Frank Attla; sister, Minnie Yatlin; daughter, Barbara Attla; son, Frank Attla; daughter-in-law, Christine Attla; and grandchild, Stephan Simpson.

He is survived by his partner, Kathy Turco; brothers, Robert Attla, Alfred Attla (Helen) and Barney Attla (Ragine); sisters, Rose Ambrose, Marie Yaska and Madeline Williams (Bill); children, Gary Attla, Phyllis Attla, Marilyn Van Hatten (Mike), Eliza Tiulana (Charles), George Attla III, Amanda Attla and Sheylynn Attla; 19 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and numerous nephews and nieces.

A gathering was held Monday at the David Salmon Tribal Hall in Fairbanks. A service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the tribal hall. Immediately following the service, the family will bring him home to Huslia with a final service and burial on Feb 19.

On Feb. 8, George said the Sinner's Prayer and welcomed the Lord into his heart. The family extends heartfelt thanks to the many friends and family who offered their assistance during his illness and who came to visit, called, brought food and sent messages of love and support. Condolences for the family can be sent to Phyllis Attla, P.O. Box 104, Huslia, AK 99746. In lieu of flowers, donations can be deposited to an Alaska USA savings account No. 531583.

~Notes from friends & fellow mushers ~


Thirty odd years ago at a post K300 banquet I sat across a table from George Attla. Barely acquainted, but for my having won an Iditarod, our talk centered on dogs. George asked if/when I intended to run Rondy. I replied that I had no inclination to. He looked at me incredulously...almost with suspicion, and replied, “how can you NOT want to win Rondy as badly as I want to win Iditarod?”

In George's world, any “unwon” race was a challenge not to be ignored. He simply didn't understand a world that could be otherwise.
'Mr. Competition', body and soul, from the mukluks up....R.I.P George. ~ Joe May




If you want some idea of how a long a reach George Attla had into the heart of Alaska dog mushing, you can't do better than the story Raymie Redington told. He said as a boy he'd walk around his father's dog lot dragging one leg in emulation of Attla, who suffered a leg hobbled for life by tuberculosis. Think a youngster emulating his baseball hero's batting stance, or his rock idol's stage strut. "Doggie," Redington said in describing how it felt to walk like Attla. And this happened in the dog lot of Joe Redington, the man who would become the father of the Iditarod. Attla only ran the Iditarod one time. He finished fourth in 1974. He joked once that sprint racing was more to his liking - you ran hard all day, but once you had dogs fed and bedded, you settled in by the fire with a glass of Kahlua. None of this cold camping and sleep deprivation. But no less an Iditarod champion than five-time winner Rick Swenson cut his teeth on the runners and with what he called the "Bible," Attla's "Everything I Know About Racing and Training Sled Dogs." If you want some idea of how long a reach George Attla had into the heart of Alaska, you can't do better than the memory of Attla's trademark kick on the runners as he drove his team to the end of the 25-mile run on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage in so many final heats of the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race. Musher and dogs strong but spent, they'd run to a finish lined with cheers and applause on both sides of the street. The Huslia Hustler was underdog and champion, our underdog and our champion. George Attla was one of those people who defined a time in Alaska when we were less connected with the rest of the world but more connected to where we lived, when the Fur Rondy included a school holiday so kids could see a musher like Attla, and his superb rival, Dr. Roland Lombard, duel for supremacy. You'll still find "Attla dogs" in teams throughout Alaska. And it's easy to imagine him, especially at this time of year, in shades and a smile, nod in approval at every good, clean run.~ Frank Gerjevic