Rick Mackey, who won 1983 Iditarod race, dead at 71

Rick Mackey

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Rick Mackey, a musher who won the 1983 Iditarod race, died Monday after a 19-month battle with cancer. He was 71.

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Mackey, of Nenana, was part of an Alaska mushing dynasty that included his father, Dick Mackey, and his half-brother, Lance Mackey, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. He died at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, according to the newspaper.

A Facebook post shared by Rick Mackey’s daughter expressed grief, but referenced that his death was tied to a family tradition -- the number 13, which the Mackey family tended to draw during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, KTUU-TV reported.

“Last night our family lost my dad to his 19-month battle with cancer. May 13th. I knew it would be the 13th,” Brenda Mackey wrote. “I felt it on Saturday and upset Grandpa saying so, but it was his number, Grandpa’s number, Uncle Lance’s number. A special number in our family. Grandpa said that finalizes the number in our family.”

Dick Mackey won the 1978 Iditarod in the closest finish in race history, while Lance Mackey won the race four straight years, from 2007 to 2010, according to the Iditarod website. Lance Mackey died in 2022 at the age of 52.

In addition to his victory in 1983, Rick Mackey finished in the top 10 of the 1,049-mile race across Alaska 12 other times. He placed second in 1994 and third in 1993.

According to the Iditarod website, Rick Mackey was born May 1, 1953, in Concord, New Hampshire. He joined his father in Alaska by 1958 and helped to train for the first running of the Iditarod in 1973.

He was married for 40 years and is survived by his wife, Patty; daughter, Brenda; and son, Roland, KTUU reported.

“It’s unimaginable to think of him being gone,” Brenda Mackey wrote on Facebook. “We’ve had almost 2 years of anticipatory grief, but like my grandpa said it doesn’t really help soften it.”

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