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Dorothy Guzzi Page (“Mother of the Iditarod”) was born on January 23, 1921, in Bessemer, Michigan to parents Arcole C. Guzzi and Mary Mae Jago Guzzi. She moved with her family to Duluth and then to Minneapolis, where she spent most of her early life.
Following her high school graduation in 1939, Dorothy moved to Albuquerque then to Los Alamos, New Mexico. She worked the front office, in medical records of the Los Alamos Hospital. She also worked as the chief telephone operator. She opened Dorothy’s Café in 1950, across from the famous Camel Rock Trading Post.
Page married Vondole Page, on June 17, 1959, in Taos, New Mexico. They operated the trading post and café until they took a vacation to Alaska in 1960. They never lived in New Mexico again and moved to Dillingham, Alaska. Von worked as a Superintendent of schools and Page worked in the school office. In 1962 they moved to Wasilla, Alaska. Here she saw her first sled dog race, an event which would play a significant role in her many contributions to Alaska.
In 1965, Page was chairperson of Wasilla’s Alaska Centennial Committee. As a Centennial project, she initiated the idea of reopening the historic Iditarod Trail between Knik and Big Lake.Dog mushing had been the primary means of communication and transportation in the Bush and Interior by Alaska Natives for centuries and remained so for the Russian, American and French-Canadian fur trappers in the 19th century, reaching its peak during the gold rushes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1960s snow machines started to replace the dog teams and they almost vanished.
In her own words, Page, the self-described “history buff” wanted, “a spectacular dog race to awaken Alaskans to what mushers and their dogs had done for Alaska”. Page began the work of organizing support for her idea however, she unable to get the support of a single dog musher until she met Joe Redington, Sr. at the Willow Winter Carnival. Redington, who would later become known as the “Father of the Iditarod” used dog teams to perform search and rescue for the U.S. Air Force and owned a large kennel. He also had been lobbying to make the Iditarod Trail a National Historic Trail since the 1950s. Redington agreed to lend his support to the event on the condition that a purse of $25,000 would be divided among the winners. With Page’s determination, the money was soon raised.
The historic Iditarod Trail, which passed through both Wasilla and Knik, was an ideal stage for the first of many dog races. In February 1967, fifty-eight dog mushers competed in two heats along a 25 mile stretch of the old Iditarod Trail between Wasilla and Knik. The race was modeled after the first large dog sled race in the state, the 1908 to 1918 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes (AAS) of Nome. The official name of this 1967 event was the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race and honored the three-time Sweepstakes champion, Leonhard Seppala. While Seppala was most famous for participating in the 1925 serum run which saved the city of Nome from a diphtheria epidemic, Page reported “Seppala was picked to represent all mushers”. The 1969 race over the same trail with a purse of $1,000, attracted only 12 mushers and was the last until 1973, when, largely due to Redington, the race to Nome was established. Page continued to support the Iditarod in many ways throughout her life and, although she never raced, in 1997 she was posthumously awarded as an honorary musher.
Page served on the Iditarod Trail Committee’s board of directors since its inception. Throughout the years, Page served on many committees for the Iditarod, including the executive committee. At the time of her death, she was serving as the treasurer.
While leading the Centennial Committee in 1966, her drive to preserve the early history of the Valley was the force for establishment of Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Historical Society. She served as President. She was instrumental in founding Wasilla Museum, Knik Museum and served as curator for both museums. She served as a member of Wasilla Library Board for 20 years. 1973-1989 – Wrote, edited and published the Iditarod’s annual race program and edited the race’s news magazine, The Iditarod Runner. She wrote weekly columns for the Frontiersman, plus feature articles and articles of historic interest for both the Frontiersman and the Valley Sun. She served 4 terms on Wasilla City Council. She served as Mayor of Wasilla 1986 and 1987. She served as Wasilla’s Republican Committee woman from 1968. She was a long-time member of the Alaska Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women.
Described by her friend, Gail Phillips, “Dorothy had the unfailing, innate and wonderful ability to get the right people involved in activities she felt they should be involved in, especially if she herself was involved. Once she had scoped out a “victim’s” strength and abilities, and determined where that person was needed most, she would move mountains to make sure they got involved. A large part of Iditarod’s tremendous success over the years can be attributed to Dorothy’s ability to get the right people involved in the right job. In addition, once a person was in a position to help, Dorothy continued to help – she didn’t leave people hanging out on a limb. She could always be counted on for support and help.”
Although Dorothy Page is most famous for being the “Mother of the Iditarod”, many people remember her as a tireless advocate for building and preserving communities in Alaska. After her passing, many people wrote in to The Iditarod Runner to share their personal stories and thanks to one of Alaska’s most treasured women. Page’s friend, Representative Curt Maynard wrote, “Dorothy’s spirit is the legacy I would like to recognize and honor. It is her enthusiasm and diligence that has inspired others to pursue their goals and dreams. I know of many of my neighbors in the Valley watched her get the ball rolling on the Iditarod and they caught the “volunteer spark”. Anyone who’s life was touched by Dorothy was stirred to do a little more, try a little harder, give more time and energy to their neighborhood, church, or school. The Valley has a rich history that through Dorothy’s efforts is preserved for our children and grandchildren. The common bond that she created by her spirit insures a rich future also. Thank you Dorothy and we hope to see you on down the trail.”
List of Awards received by Page:
1984: Recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Award presented by Governor Bill Sheffield.
1986: Dorothy received the Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Society Gold Pan Award. She won both state and national awards for her Iditarod Trail Annuals.
1989: After her death, the Wasilla Museum was renamed the Dorothy G. Page Museum.
1989: She was the recipient of the Mayor of Wasilla’s proclamation honoring Dorothy’s life in.
1990: She was the recipient of the State of Alaska’s Legislative Citation by the 16th Alaska Legislature.
1997: She was named the Honorary Musher for Iditarod 25. She is commemorated by the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, given to the first musher to reach the halfway point of the annual race, in Cripple in even-numbered years and in Iditarod in odd-numbered years.
She received State and National Press Awards for her publication of the “Iditarod Trail Annual”
She was recognized for her years of service to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough by resolution recognizing her “Distinguished Service to the Community”.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/qWAy0VssBsU
Dorothy Page, known as the “Mother of the Iditarod”, enlisted the support of Joe Redington Sr., known as the “Father of the Iditarod”, to stage the first race in 1967 between Knik and Big Lake. In 1973 the race was run over 1, 000 miles between Anchorage and Nome. Today, “The Last Great Race” is staged each March with mushers from around the world competing in Alaska’s premier sporting event.
Page advocated tirelessly to have Congress designate the Iditarod Trail as a National Historic Trail in 1978. Across the U.S., only 16 trails have won this historical designation. The Alaskan trail celebrates the indispensable role played by “man’s best friend” in the last great gold rush.
As a writer and editor, Page published the Iditarod’s annual race program and edited, The Iditarod Runner. Page also wrote for the Frontiersman and the Valley Sun. She was a member of the Alaska Press Women and National Federation of Press Women and received State and National Press Awards for her publication of the Iditarod Trail Annual.
In the Mat-Su Valley, Page established the Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Historical Society, the Wasilla Museum, and Knik Museum. As a public servant Page was on the Wasilla Library Board, Wasilla’s Republican Committee, Wasilla City Counsel and served as Mayor of Wasilla. She was recognized for her years of service to the Mat-Su Borough by resolution honoring her “Distinguished Service to the Community”.
In 1984, Page was the recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Award, presented by Governor Bill Sheffield. She was the recipient of the Mayor of Wasilla’s proclamation honoring Page’s life in 1989 and she received the State of Alaska’s Legislative Citation by the 16th Alaska Legislature in 1990.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/qWAy0VssBsU