An amazing lady died today. Susan Butcher, the first person ever to win three consecutive Iditarod dog sled championships, died in Seattle after complications from a rare form of Leukemia at the age of 51.
I was honored to meet and spend a seriously great time with Susan and her husband Dave at the wedding of one of my best friends from college, Mike Hannigan, who married Susan's fabulous sister, Clo. That was in Boulder, Colorado about 11 years ago. Mike and Clo rented out this great cabin at the Chatauqua state park in Boulder, where many of us piled in and spent a week or so enjoying the surroundings before the wedding.
Susan was one tough lady, with a great sense of humor and a lovely, fun, unpretentious family.
I have a funny memory of Susan and Dave nursemaiding a few of us the morning (afternoon?) after we had taken the bachelor party consumption contests a little too seriously. Being rugged transplants to remote Alaska, they were into new age and herbal medicinal supplements and things. Susan and Dave convinced Hannigan to put a tiny little Chinese "pellet" (for lack of a better word), under his tongue that they assured him would help with his hangover by removing the toxins from his body. The rest of us promised to do the same once we saw it work on the groom-to-be.
It had an effect, alright, and it removed the toxins. It also helped him remove about four days worth of everything else he'd eaten and drank. Witnessing this happen, the rest of us decided to stick with the tried-and-true western cures we were familiar with, aspirin, diet coke, fast food, and going back to bed.
Susan will likely go down in history as one of the greatest ground-breaking female athletes ever. But more than that, she'll be missed by her husband and two daughters and an extended family that loved her deeply.
Susan Butcher 1954 - 2006