Story Last modified at 11:08 p.m. on Wednesday, January 5, 2011
July 5, 1940-Dec. 23, 2010
Well-known Chugiak resident and author, Lois Ilena Harter, died Dec. 23, 2010, at her home where she had lived since arriving in Alaska in 1974. A celebration of life will be held Jan. 8 from 2-5 p.m. at Iditarod Checkpoint #1, VFW Post 9785, 10527 VFW Road, Eagle River.
Lois was born July 5, 1940, in Philadelphia. She moved with her mother and brother to Brevard County, Fla., where she met and married Ted English in 1958. In 1970, the couple moved with their four children to Phoenix, where Ted worked in construction. After four years in Phoenix, the family moved to Alaska.
While Ted went ahead, Lois sold the Arizona home, had a garage sale and loaded the rest of the family belongings into a Chevy truck. She a hired 68-year-old woman, a retired truck driver, packed the four kids and six champion Dobermans into a station wagon and drove her family 3,700 miles to Alaska.
As dog lovers, it wasn't long before Lois and Ted were involved in Chugiak's mushing community; Lois volunteering and Ted mushing. In 1975, the couple were introduced to Joe and Vi Redington and soon became hooked on the Iditarod dream. Lois and Ted would later divorce, but remained lifelong friends.
Lois loved the Iditarod Sled Dog Race as much as any musher and the mushers loved her. Throughout her 33 years with Iditarod, first as a volunteer, then employee, Lois helped setup and served as retail outlet manager, volunteer coordinator, race communications coordinator, race logistic coordinator, education director, and original webmaster; wearing many of these titles at the same time. Following Libby Riddles' historic win in 1985, Lois penned "Alaska: Where Men Are Men and Women Win the Iditarod," on a napkin at the Iditarod Awards Banquet in Nome, a slogan soon seen on T-shirts throughout the country.
From her office in Iditarod Headquarters, Lois befriended Zuma, Iditarod's canine journalist, sharing Iditarod and Alaska with schoolchildren around the world through their column "Zuma's Paw Prints." In her spare time, Lois published a successful children's book about mushing and traveled to schools in Alaska and the Lower 48 sharing Iditarod and Alaska.
In 1998, Lois created and introduced the "Teacher on the Trail," program which launched in 1999, notably one of Iditarod's most successful community outreach programs with classrooms around the world participating in educational activities about Alaska and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
At home in Chugiak, Lois volunteered as a dispatcher for the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department, established a support group for people on transplant lists and organized fundraisers for Alaska's missing children.
Lois is survived by her four children, Cindy Johnson, Cassandra Kincaid, Michael English and Victoria Coppess and their spouses; 13 grandchildren: Rebekah Hoffman, Jillian Hughes, Banjo Barnes, Echo Pullen, Tesha and Teslyn Milham, Boday Turton, Stephanie, Zachary, and Talphus English, Kayla and Denali Coppess; and 17 great-grandchildren, Tanner, Briannah, Angel, Gavin, Allyson, Isabelle, Riley, Ethan, Elliott, Peyton, Dalton, Adriel, Jordan, Arihanna, Jayden, Kodi and Kahri; brothers, Rick DeVries of Florida and William Harter of Pennsylvania.
Lois was preceded in death by her mother, Blanche DeVries, earlier this year and her grandson Daniel Barnes last year.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to The Lois Harter Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank location; account number 9957573117.
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, January 5, 2011.