Iditarod champion Rick Mackey passes away at the age of 71

Rick Mackey, a musher who emerged victorious in the 1983 Iditarod race, passed away on Monday following a courageous 19-month fight against cancer. He was 71 years old.

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According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Mackey, a resident of Nenana, came from a long line of mushers in Alaska. His father, Dick Mackey, and his half-brother, Lance Mackey, were also part of this mushing dynasty. The newspaper reported that Mackey passed away at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Rick Mackey’s daughter took to Facebook to express her grief over his death. She mentioned that his passing was linked to a unique family tradition associated with the number 13 during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, as reported by KTUU-TV.

Brenda Mackey shared the heartbreaking news that her father lost his battle with cancer last night. In a poignant tribute, she mentioned how the date, May 13th, held a special significance for their family. Brenda had sensed the foreshadowing on Saturday and had expressed her concerns to her grandfather, who explained that the number 13 held a special place in their family’s history. This loss further solidified the meaning of the number within their family.

Dick Mackey emerged as the victor of the 1978 Iditarod, marking the closest finish in the race’s storied history. In a remarkable feat, Lance Mackey achieved an unprecedented four consecutive victories from 2007 to 2010, as highlighted on the official Iditarod website. Sadly, Lance Mackey’s untimely demise occurred in 2022 at the age of 52.

Rick Mackey’s impressive track record in the 1,049-mile race across Alaska is certainly worth noting. Not only did he emerge victorious in 1983, but he also achieved top 10 finishes on 12 other occasions. In 1994, he secured a commendable second place, and in 1993, he proudly claimed the third spot. Mackey’s consistent performances throughout the years highlight his exceptional skills and dedication to the sport.

Rick Mackey, born on May 1, 1953, in Concord, New Hampshire, made his way to Alaska by 1958. He played a crucial role in preparing for the inaugural Iditarod race in 1973, working alongside his father.

According to a report by KTUU, he had been married to Patty for 40 years. He is survived by his wife, Patty, as well as his daughter, Brenda, and his son, Roland.

“It’s difficult to fathom the idea of him no longer being with us,” expressed Brenda Mackey in a heartfelt message on Facebook. “We’ve been bracing ourselves for this moment for nearly two years, but as my grandpa wisely said, it doesn’t truly ease the pain.”

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