Howdy Race Fans! 2020 is now in the past and as we have hope for better days in 2021, we must share some sad news from the Trail. As the Covid virus has impacted all of our lives in so many ways, it really brought it all home with the news of the passing of Veteran Musher Joe Demantle Jr. from Tuluksak from the Covid virus.
The whole Demantle family has been a part of the larger mushing family for as long as anyone can remember. In the early days of the K300, the Tuluksak checkpoint was the old Demantle home. The moose soup from that table still makes my mouth water.
Joe Jr. won the 1985 Kuskokwim 300 rookie of the year finishing in 9th place, but was a staple in many of the local races every year. Last year he finished runner up in the 2020 Akiak Dash besting many of the younger crowd always with that smile on his face.
Like his Dad, he wasn’t a man of many words, but truly part of the fabric that makes the mushing community special. Each person dedicated to helping out, participating, or just enjoying the social nature of gathering together each winter to enjoy the outdoors, the animals and each other.
Joe had planned to run in this year’s Bogus 150, but had opted out due to the quarantine. His passing came as quite a shock to many and Pete as well. Pete was asked to lead the trucks out of Bethel that would be taking Joe home for the last time and he was honored to be asked.
About 50 vehicles gathered to send off the procession. Everyone distancing in their vehicles, but wanting to be a part of the send off.
Returning home, Pete texted, “That was pretty special…” I called and he said that it was a special thing for a special guy. “There aren’t too many around like Joe” he said. I asked about their relationship and he said that Joe was always super excited to talk about mushing and the dogs. Joe was so thrilled when Pete won the Iditarod. Pete related that at AFN, while he was there for the keynote address, Joe stopped by their table while they were eating to say a short hello and before you knew it they had been talking dogs for almost an hour. “I went to school with Joe’s son Misha” so we knew each other for a very long time. He just loved mushing and our lifestyle.
“It’s sad, but there aren’t too many guys like Joe around anymore– You know, old school mushers. Joe was definitely one of that generation and he’s going to be missed.”
Our condolences to the whole Demantle family and the mushing community who knew him.