DeeDee Jonrowe: A princess on the runners

February 26, 2010 

If there is such a thing as Iditarod royalty, DeeDee Jonrowe is the people's princess.

In a sport where the biggest stars need only their first names to be recognized -- Rick, Susan, Martin, Libby -- few have forged a stronger and more emotional bond with fans than Jonrowe.

Go to downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March and you are likely to hear "Go, DeeDee!" as often as you hear the howl of a husky. Go to Nome the second week of March and you are likely to see a huge welcoming committee for Jonrowe, whether she finishes second or 22nd.

DeeDee paraphernalia is everywhere. There are DeeDee headbands, DeeDee postcards and one year there was even DeeDee lip balm.

Being a petite and attractive woman in a sport that conjures images of burly men braving wild terrain doesn't hurt.

But she's not a style-over- substance musher.

Jonrowe has two second-place finishes (1993 and 1998), nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10 finishes.

"I don't think you have to win the race ... to be a member of the Hall of Fame," nominating committee member Fran Durner wrote. "I do think you have to love the race, show a dedication to it and be an inspiration and an example for those who follow it. I think DeeDee has shown all that and more."

If Jonrowe defines popularity, so too does she define perseverance.

In 1996, she was injured in a car accident that killed her grandmother and seriously injured her husband. She trained while she recovered and finished fourth in the 1997 Iditarod. In 1999, her dogs quit on the Yukon River. She revamped her team and finished 10th in 2001.

Jonrowe was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2002. She ran the 2003 race, finishing 18th, just three weeks after completing chemotherapy treatment.

Inducted 2003 Greatest accomplishment Maybe the best musher who's never won. A crowd favorite, she had a string of 11 straight top-10 finishes from 1988 to 1998. Vital stats Born: Germany Hometown: Willow Age: 56 Best finish 2nd -- 1993, '98 Fastest time 1998 -- 9 days, 8 hours, 49 minutes, 42 seconds Race record 1980 24th 1981 31st 1983 15th 1984 30th 1987 22nd 1988 9th 1989 4th 1990 5th 1991 7th 1992 5th 1993 2nd 1994 9th 1995 4th 1996 5th 1997 4th 1998 2nd 1999 Scratched 2000 20th 2001 10th 2002 16th 2003 18th 2004 15th 2005 10th 2006 4th 2007 Scratched 2008 15th 2009 13th Awards Sportsmanship -- 1981 Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian -- 1991 Halfway -- 1991 Most inspirational -- 1993, 2003 Joe Redington Sr. -- 1997

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service