By MARY PEMBERTON,Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Scott Janssen — “The Mushing Mortician” — is foregoing ice cream and cake this year to celebrate his 50th birthday on the Iditarod Trail, but some of his best friends are still going to sing him a birthday song.
“It is going to be me and 16 dogs and they are going to be howling at the moon,” said Janssen, an undertaker competing in his first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race rookie Scott Janssen of Anchorage, Alaska, packs his sled before heading out on the 1,100-mile trail. Scott Janssen _ "The Mushing Mortician" _ is foregoing ice cream and cake this year to celebrate his 50th birthday on the Iditarod Trail, but some of his best friends are still going to sing him a birthday song. Janssen is taking a hiatus from his funeral service business to run the 1,150-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. The dog is not part of his racing team. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Janssen is taking a hiatus from his funeral service business to compete in the 1,150-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. On Monday, he was in 48th place in the 62-team field.
“One of the reasons I became a funeral director, even as a youngster, I wanted to do things that were a little bit different,” he said.
Five-time champion Rick Swenson was injured Monday in a fall in rugged terrain between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints. Swenson reported he believes he broke a collarbone, but race spokesman Chas St. George says a doctor hasn’t looked at it yet. Communication between Rainy Pass and Anchorage was iffy, and St. George was waiting word on any decision from Swenson, including scratching.
Defending four-time champion Lance Mackey was in the lead late Monday, leaving the Rohn checkpoint just after 6 p.m., followed by Hugh Neff and Sebastian Schnuelle. Rohn is 272 miles from Anchorage.
Janssen is president and owner of Janssen Funeral Homes Inc. He said his interest in becoming an undertaker began in high school when he worked two summers digging and filling in graves and mowing grass at the Oakdale Cemetery in Crookston, Minn. His best friend’s dad ran the cemetery.
“I developed a bit of fascination with death,” said Janssen, an acknowledged horror movie buff.
After graduating high school and marrying his high school sweetheart, Debbie, he thought he would go into the printing business but then hosted a housewarming party and invited all his neighbors, including a funeral home director who lived two houses away.
The funeral home director asked the 20-year-old what he was going to do with his life. Janssen told him he wanted to buy the print shop where he worked. But the funeral home director told Janssen he should learn to be a mortician.