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Monday, November 8, 2010

The Beginning - Part 5

I went back as a volunteer for two more races, 2007 and 2008. By this time I was good friends with the coordinator of communications (COMMS), Mark Kelliher. He looked like Santa Claus and had an old Irishman’s sense of humor. He had traveled extensively with the military and then again as a civilian contractor. He had been to Russia numerous times and had many friends there who would toast and drink, drink and toast until they all passed out, every time he went for a visit.

I did not go back as a volunteer in 2009 because I had begun training with Doug Swingley, in anticipation of running the Iditarod in 2010. I did go back in 2010 as a handler for another musher, John Stewart, who was training with me at Doug’s. It was then that I found out that Mark Kelliher had collapsed of a massive heart attack and died instantly at the McGrath checkpoint, getting it ready for the race. His funeral was to be held the next day and I arranged to be there. He was loved by all who knew him, especially those who worked closely with him, the pilots, the communications and logistics people and the race officials. He was the one person who had made it possible for me to experience the interior of Alaska in the winter. I would dedicate my run to him.

1 comment:

  1. I ran into Mark in 1977 when he worked for the FAA. I had just came up from the lower 48 and Mark took me to my first (of many trips) to the Kenai. Really a first class guy in everything he did. The first 'real Alaskan' I ever knew.