Alumnus and Sled Dog Veterinarian Jim Leach
is Callaway Guest of Honor
- Article and photo courtesy
The Fulton Sun
Jim Leach never imagined he'd be living
in Alaska when he graduated from Fulton High School.
also never thought that he'd be coming back to Callaway County
as the guest of honor for the 103rd Kingdom of Callaway Supper.
But, on March 18, Leach will return to
speak at the supper held in the Amy Shelton McNutt Campus
Center on the William Woods campus.
Leach, a retired veterinarian, has lived
and worked in the harsh climate of Alaska for almost 35 years.
“Alaska is a little more of a land
of challenges,” Leach said. “There's a lot of
freedom up here that isn't always available in the lower 48
He arrived home Tuesday after spending
most of February as a trail veterinarian for the Yukon Quest
sled dog race. The 1,000 mile race travels between Fairbanks,
Alaska, and Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory.
“We've been working with races for
well over 30 years,” Leach said. “I've done many,
many other races around the state, around the country and
over into Russia, but this was our first Yukon Quest.”
He was chosen as guest of honor by Kingdom
of Callaway Supper President Rob Wright after hearing about
his work with sled dog races from a neighbor.
“That's what kind of piqued my interest
in Dr. Leach,” Wright said. “He started out as
a small animal vet in California and eventually went to Alaska.
He became interested in sled dog races and has been the head
trail doc for a number of sled dog races: the Iditarod, the
Klondike, Copper Basin and one going from Gnome into Russia.
It was all very interesting.”
Leach received a degree in veterinary medicine
from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1964. He practiced
veterinary medicine in La Cresenta, Calif., until he was drafted
“At the time we got out of school,
the Korea conflict was over and Vietnam was starting up and
getting pretty hot and they were drafting veterinarians,”
Leach said. “There were two or three out of my class
and three or four out of the class following. I was practicing
in California when I got my draft notice.”
After the Army, Leach worked in several
different practices in California, Florida and Colorado before
getting the opportunity to move to Alaska.
He and his wife, Sarah Ann, started their
Alaskan practice in 1974 where they served a more than 1,000
mile area of outlying communities by plane, utilizing Leach's
“We both liked the cold weather,”
Leach said. “We'd take time off to ski every year. So,
when the opportunity arose to go somewhere we had cold weather
and seasons we jumped at it.”
The couple sold their practice in 1980
to pursue gold mining in northeastern Alaska, and enjoy flying,
traveling, and painting.
They now reside in the community of Big
Lake, 70 miles north of Anchorage.
The Kingdom of Callaway Supper is an annual
event that looks to bring all residents of Callaway County
“It's an event where all the people
who attend just feel the pride that's here in Callaway County,”
said Debbie LaRue, the supper's secretary. “There are
just a lot of strong feelings that you're glad you're part
of the Kingdom of Callaway.”
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