Iditarod legend Delia, 82, finally says goodbye to Skwentna

January 12, 2012 

Joe Delia checks musher Martin Buser into the Skwentna checkpoint during the 1997 Iditarod.

BOB HALLINEN / DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Even though Joe Delia officially retired as the Iditarod's Skwentna checker after the 1997 race, the checkpoint was still at his house -- and Delia was still to be seen doing Iditarod work unofficially. But after more than 50 years in Skwentna, Delia has finally moved to the city for good, writes Craig Medred in Alaska Dispatch.

The Iditarod Air Force, a crazy gang of volunteers who fly small planes for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, descended on the community of Skwentna last week to help Joe and wife Norma pack their belongings for a move to town. At the age of 82, with his health not the best, Joe has been pretty much forced to accept civilization. Life in the city is infinitely easier than life in Skwentna.

Not that Joe wanted to go. Everyone agrees on that. "It's heartbreaking," said friend Bonnie Childs. ...

Delia was an institution in a community so small it isn't even called a town. It's considered a "census designated place." And in this census designated place, Joe loomed large. Skwentna without Joe Delia seems to many sort of like the Alaska Range without Mount McKinley.

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