Eye on the Jr: Saying Goodbye to Friends

George Murphy and his Aeronica Sedan at Skwentna Air Strip (Photo by Terrie Hanke)

Two wonderful friends of the Jr. Iditarod have passed away since the 46th race last winter.  Bob Morgan, the 2022 Jr. Iditarod  Honorary Musher and Jr. Iditarod board member passed in September of 2023.  George Murphy, pilot and Jr. Iditarod Board member emeritus passed in December of 2023.  Both men generously gave their time and talents to support the young mushers as well as the Jr. Iditarod organization and will be sorely missed.

Bob Morgan has been supporting the Jr Iditarod with his time and numerous talents for more than 25 years.  A musher himself, and Iditarod veteran, Bob knew the importance of mentoring young mushers to insure the future of the sport. 

Bob was licensed as a HAM radio operator.  Before the advent of satellite phones and internet, Bob worked as part of the Jr. Iditarod communications team reporting information from out at Yentna Station.  Even after internet became available, Bob worked Yentna Station as runner between the timer outside and the computer operator inside.

Bob Morgan – 2022 Jr. Iditarod Honorary Musher at Cantwell (Photo by Jim Deprez)

Liking the motorized sled as much as the dog sled, Bob has helped Trail Boss, Richard Plack, with trail work for the Jr. Iditarod.   Always available to help, he also hauled drop bags and supplies and plowed the starting area on Knik Lake.  Bob, a member of the Jr. Iditarod Board of Directors has served in that capacity for seven or more years.  Barb Redington who has worked many years with Bob said, “It’s fun to work with people like Bob.  He saw what needed to be done and did it.  Volunteers like Bob are the basis for a race like this. He was there at the Jr. Iditarod because he loved it.”

George Murphy and his late wife, Dorothea Taylor, were long time supports, volunteers, board members.   Murphy flew for the Iditarod and Jr. Iditarod and served as chief pilot for the Jr. race.  George passed away in December of 2023, Dorothea in December of 2020.  George worked as an engineer designing air strips  for the State of Alaska and Dorothea was a teacher.  Both loved to fly, hunt and spend time in the out-of-doors.

In recent years after retiring from official roles with the Jr. Iditarod, George and Dorothea frequently drove into Wasilla from their home in Willow to attend the pre-race Friday evening  Jr. musher meeting.  In the company of other Jr. Iditarod volunteers their eyes sparkled and they smiled broadly as they watched the young mushers draw bib numbers and prepare for the Saturday start.  Indeed they , like Bob, knew how important it was for these young mushers to carry the Jr. Iditarod and the sport of sled dog racing into the future.

George Murphy and Dorothea Taylor attending Jr. Iditarod Musher Meeting (Photo by Terrie Hanke)

Over the years, Murphy and Taylor have faced many adventures together but non as well publicized as the moose incident ten years back.  George and Dorothea took their dogs for a run at the  Willow Airport.  George, age 82, was attacked by a moose and  while the dogs barked and nipped at the moose, 5 foot tall, 97 pound Dorothea, age 85, walloped the moose repeatedly with a grain shovel, driving it back into the woods and saving George’s life.

George moved to Alaska in 1965 and shortly thereafter he bought a 1948 Aeronica Sedan, the plan he flew for Jr. Iditarod and Iditarod.  Flying with George in the Aeronica while traveling the trail as Teacher on the Trail in 2006 and while working race communications in subsequent years is one of many fond memories. 

There is the saying about bush pilots – There are old bush pilots and bold bush pilots but there are no old bold bush pilots.  George  passed at the age of 94, need I say more about his skill and caution as a bush pilot?  He was well respected in the world of bush pilots and the Iditarod Air Force.  George who began flying for the IAF in 1981, retired after 29 years in 2010.

Thank you to Bob and George as well as Dorothea for giving of your time, talents and energy in supporting the Jr. Iditarod.  May you rest in peace.