FAIRBANKS — Champion sprint musher and early musher Joee Redington Jr. died Tuesday in Fairbanks from gallbladder surgery complications. He was 74.
The oldest son of Iditarod founder Joe Redington Sr., Joee grew up on his family's Flathorn Lake homestead in Southcentral Alaska, surrounded by Alaska's state sport. Joee Redington ran the 1967 Iditarod Centennial Race that would grow into the Iditarod in 1973. He ran the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1974 and 1975 but is best known for his career as a sprint dog musher and breeder of versatile sled dogs.
"Joee was a historian of the sport, partly because he knew all the guys and gals who were around first through his dad and then through his own acquaintances. He was there when all this stuff happened with George Attla and Doc Lombard and when his dad and Susan Butcher climbed Denali (with sled dog teams in 1979)," said Redington's friend Arleigh Reynolds on Wednesday.
Reynolds, also a champion sprint racer, said he considers Redington a mentor and has known him for 30 years.
Redington was a dog musher in the U.S. Army and ran an Army dog team that won the 1966 Fur Rendezvous sprint race.
Redington is survived by his wife, Pam; daughter, Heather; and son, Joee Ray. In the 1970s, Redington and his family moved to Manley Hot Springs, where they lived a subsistence life and raised and raced dogs.
He ran the Manley Hot Springs checkpoint for the Iditarod when the race came through in 2003, 2015 and 2017. This year, the checkpoint won the Golden Clipboard Award for being the best checkpoint of the race.
The dogs Redington bred leave a legacy in sprint and distance mushing, Reynolds said.
"His bloodlines are everywhere. They are absolutely the most versatile line of dogs left anywhere in the world," he said. "He has dogs that have been top Iditarod teams, winning Yukon Quest teams and winning Fur Rendezvous and Open North American Championship teams as recently as this year."
Redington's funeral is 1 p.m. Monday at the Manley cemetery, followed by a potluck at the hangar in Manley. Visitation will be Sunday evening and Monday morning at the Manley Tribal Hall.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.