Iditarod champion Emmitt Peters, Sr., known as the 'Yukon Fox,' dies at 79

 Emmitt Peters, Sr., laughs during an interview in 2016.
Emmitt Peters, Sr., laughs during an interview in 2016. (KTUU)
Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 3:45 PM AKDT
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Emmitt Peters, Sr., the 1975 Iditarod Champion know as the "Yukon Fox," passed away Thursday in Ruby. He was 79 years old.

Peters won the Last Great Race on Earth in 1975 as an Iditarod rookie, the most recent first-time racer to do so. He would not win a second title, but finished in third in 1978 and took the runner-up position in 1979.

Along with his race crown, Peters' Iditarod accolades were numerous. After becoming champion and Rookie of the Year at the same time in 1975, he would go on to win the Golden Harness in 1979; the Halfway Award in 1982, complete with $3,000 worth of silver; and the Most Inspirational Musher Award in 2000. He completed the Iditarod more than a dozen times and was a top-ten finisher ten times.

In a 2016 interview with KTUU, Peters described his attempts at the Iditarod, including a time he was the first musher to arrive to Ruby and a "great treat" in the form of a multi-course dinner in the village.

"I couldn't wait; 18, 20 miles out, I was getting close to a hot meal," he said. "I hadn't had not a bite to eat for one whole day, from Cripple all the way to here, so that was really interesting. I paid more attention to my dogs. Watch them, feed them, water them, and keep on going. No time to eat.

"There was one time, I swear I ate with my dogs," he laughed. "That tasted better than my meal!"

Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman confirmed Peters' passing Friday.

"He will be missed," Nordman wrote in an email, "one hell of a dog man, and a true icon of Iditarod."

Dozens of condolences and comments for Peters' wife, Edna, also poured out on social media Friday.

"So sorry to hear the news, Edna," one poster wrote. "Our hearts go out to you and yours. He was really something."

Another visitor wrote, "Yours was a love story and now the champ is mushing on to another dimension. Love you and your boys."

Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz reflected on meeting Peters during Schultz's first year on the trail back in 1981.

"What a fantastic musher and man," Schultz wrote in a Facebook post. "And his wife Edna is a great woman, always giving. Emmitt was the real deal. He will be missed. Godspeed, Emmitt."

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