Paul Gebhardt, a 21-time participant in the Iditarod, who also owned and operated both Gebhardt Construction and the Morning View Kennel on the Kenai Peninsula, died Saturday at 67 years old after six years dealing with cancer, the Iditarod announced Monday.
Gebhardt, who lived in Kasilof, finished in the Iditarod’s top 10 eight times, the race wrote Monday. He twice finished in second place. His last race was in 2017, the same year he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, according to a GoFundMe organized by his family at the time. They wrote that he would be missing the 2018 race because of his cancer treatment, but that he hoped to return to competition in 2019.
“Born and raised on a family farm in central Minnesota, Paul had taken care of animals his whole life, so taking up dog mushing after moving to Alaska in 1989 seemed natural,” the Iditarod wrote. They say that his first race was in 1996, and over his career he earned “a multitude of special awards, including the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award.”
The award is named in honor of the 1925 musher who, with his lead dog, Togo, made the longest leg of the Serum Run from Nenana to Nome. According to the Iditarod, it is awarded to the musher who best cares for their team while remaining competitive and “stands as testimony to the dedication and supreme focus on best dog care practices by the mushers.”
Gebhardt won that award in 2006, and also twice each received “Fastest Time from Safety to Nome” and “First to the Yukon,” as well as the “Golden Harness,” “Spirit of Alaska” and “Humanitarian” awards, per Iditarod records.
According to previous Clarion reporting, Gebhardt was also a longtime participant in the Tustumena 200, which he had won twice and held the record for fastest completion.
The Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race Association wrote Monday “We lost a legend.”