To Anvik, Ulsom Carries Ashes of the ‘Happy Musher’: Rudy Demoski

Close-up of musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom, wearing blue hat, sunglasses, black parka

One of the Iditarod’s pioneers is taking one last run. Joar Leifseth Ulsom is carrying the ashes of longtime musher Rudy Demoski to leave along the trail.

As he prepared to pass through Demoski’s hometown of Anvik, Leifseth Ulsom says he’s humbled.

“It’s an honor to do that.”

Demoski was a familiar face along the Iditarod trail for decades. Demoski died last year at age 72. During Leifseth Ulsom’s rookie race in 2013, he met Demoski, who was running his final race. Nicknamed the “Happy Musher,” Demoski came to Willow, Leifseth Ulsom says, to help him train dogs.

“He would sit in the side-by-side and look at the dogs and tell stories from the old days. I think the main thing I learned from him was to enjoy life. He was such a happy guy, even the smallest thing would get him fired up and laughing. Even until the end, he was just super happy.”

Demoski’s roots with the race can be traced to the beginning. He ran the second Iditarod and placed fourth as a rookie.

Image at top: Joar Leifseth Ulsom during the 2018 Iditarod. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.

A panorama of Joar Leifseth Ulsom sorting through his drop bag supplies while resting at the Iditarod checkpoint. Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM.