Remembering Carol Kleckner: A Virtual Celebration of Life

Carol, Breeze, and Bonsai in the upper Susitna River Valley

Carol, Breeze, and Bonsai in the upper Susitna River Valley

Please join Carol’s friends and family on Saturday, February 6, at 3 PM AST (7 PM EST) for Remembering Carol Kleckner: A Virtual Celebration of Life. This will be a pandemic-friendly chance for anyone who knew Carol to get together and share stories about her and how her life touched you. How did you get to know Carol? Did she help a dog find you? Did you have a fun adventure together? Did she inspire you to join a music jam? 

We’ll have an invocation, have a few invited speakers talk briefly about Carol, then will open it up to anyone who wants to share a story. We’ll try to limit time to three minutes, to give as many people as possible a chance to share.

We’ll start at 3 PM and go until we run out of stories or two hours, whichever comes first.

We have no idea how many people will show up, but the limit on Zoom is 300. If you are interested in sharing a story about Carol, please use Zoom. If we reach capacity, please keep trying. To sign up for the Zoom meeting and receive the meeting link, go to the Remembering Carol Kleckner: A Virtual Celebration of Life signup page.

Or, if you want to listen but not tell a story, please connect with Facebook Live, which has no limit, on the Remembering Carol Kleckner Facebook page. (Supposedly you don’t need a Facebook account to watch it there; we’ll see.) No pre-registration is necessary for this option.

If you can’t attend, or are too shy to speak, we’d still love to hear your story! We may read it during the memorial, time permitting, and will post some of the best ones on Carol’s blog. You can submit your story here

Note: The event will use Zoom to let people tell stories. Please be sure that you have Zoom installed and working on your computer or phone well ahead of time, and that you’re in a place that has enough Internet bandwidth for you to participate. You can also listen in by phone. Zoom has a comprehensive Help Center that can assist you, as well as a Test Zoom page you can practice with. We won’t be able to do much technical support to help you during the event.

We look forward to celebrating Carol’s life with you!

Carol Kleckner, 1953-2021, Rest in Peace

Carol with Ivy at the Ester 4th of July Parade

Donna Carol Kleckner, known to most as Carol, died in her sleep early the morning of Monday, January 11, 2021. She died peacefully at home after a long illness, surrounded by her partner, Don Kiely, and their three remaining Alaska huskies.

Carol was born on December 16, 1953, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, near St. Clairsville where she lived for the first 18 years of her life. She attended St. Clairsville Elementary School and St. Clairsville High School. She was always very athletic, and in high school played volleyball and basketball, and ran track. She was a cheerleader in grades 8 to 12 as well.

Carol in 7th grade
Carol's basketball team
Carol in photo booth with dog

She graduated from Elon College (now University) in North Carolina, working her way through school, and played intercollegiate basketball. For her junior year, she transferred to Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania, then returned to Elon to complete her undergraduate education. She took a full load of classes every semester and had an almost full time (many, many weekend hours!) gig at Alamance Memorial Hospital as the front desk receptionist along with summer waitressing jobs. She graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in Chemistry.

One incident foretold Carol’s involvement in rescuing animals. Jan was going to college about 30 miles away from Elon. They had a rare day to visit and were going to Raleigh to a fancy new mall to shop. Carol was driving her brown ’70 Nova and spotted a dog on the side of I-85. She swerve-stopped and we lugged this poor lumpy huge sad thing into her back seat and took it to the nearest vet. Right as he was telling them that she was too far gone to be saved, she aborted seven dead puppies in yellow froth on the metal examination table. So sad!!! They didn’t shop that day, but because of Carol that dog and babies got some big time final love.

Carol then moved to Colorado, where she worked as lab manager in a natural resources chemistry lab, GeoLabs, in Golden. She had happy memories of her years at the lab, with lots of great stories about her coworkers. During this time, she also worked on a master’s in Environmental Geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines. She then studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder—ironically at the same time her eventual Alaskan partner, Don, was there, studying for his MBA, but neither remembered having met there. While still working at GeoLabs, Carol graduated with a teaching certificate in secondary science.

During her time in Colorado, Carol designed and built an earth-shelter, passive-solar house in the mountains near Nederland, Colorado. She contracted out the shell of the house, but finished it with the help of good friends. She lived there for three years before coming to Alaska in 1985, when a friend came back from a summer in Alaska and told Carol that she’d love the north.

After working for a summer near Denali National Park, Carol returned briefly to Colorado and then came back to Alaska, where she has lived ever since. She lived in Healy, Alaska, for five years, working as a substitute teacher during the winter and a waitress in Denali during the summer. She and her soul-dog Elliott lived in a 12×16 cabin without running water or indoor plumbing.

Later, Carol got a job in the environmental and chemistry laboratory at Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska. For more than two years, she worked four weeks on and two weeks off. During her off weeks she traveled extensively. During her time at Red Dog she saved up enough money for the down payment to buy a nice four-bedroom, three-bath home on Birch Hill in Fairbanks, and opened a bed-and-breakfast.

While she ran the B&B, Carol bought a Cessna 150, and got her private pilot’s license and instrument rating. She was in heaven flying all over Alaska, year-round, and took a lot of B&B guests up one at a time. They saw many moose, wolf packs, and various small critters, reveling in the beauty of Alaska.

A-Frame near Ester

A-frame near Ester, with Bonsai chasing a ball

After six years she sold the B&B and returned to dry-cabin living for two years, renting on Love Road off of Chena Hot Springs Road east of Fairbanks, while looking for a house to buy. That’s when she found the A-frame house near the village of Ester, where she would live for the rest of her life. It was the perfect location for her and her growing pack of sled dogs: five wooded acres, wonderful (and tolerant!) neighbors, and great trails nearby. Her partner, Don, was one of her neighbors, and that helped them grow close quickly, although they actually met through dog mushing and skijoring activities.

Dogs waiting for treats

Dogs at home patiently waiting for treats

Carol always had a deep love of dogs. In her earliest years, the family lived in a small apartment, so she couldn’t get a dog. Her sister Jan reports that she and Carol were walking uptown one day, when a scruffy, tan, excited stray puppy found HER. Carol coaxed it back to their small apartment and begged “Can we keep it?????????” That’s when they learned from their parents that you can tell how large a dog will become with the size of its puppy paws. Jan has no idea what happened to that darling fluff muffin but soon after they were driving to Cleveland to pick up the non-shedding, apartment-sized purebred with a fancy AKC registered name. It was HER dog. That’s how Gulliver, a West Highland White Terrier, came into Carol’s life. She immediately dropped all her extracurricular school activities and spent every moment she could with Gulliver. From then on, dogs were a major part of her life.

During her time at the B&B, sled dogs began arriving in Carol’s life, coming mostly from friends who mushed and skijored. Robin was her first sled dog, followed quickly by several others. She also started learning about sled dog sports, and she and her dogs began competing in and winning races. At that point she had many years of experience with dogs of all kinds, and had developed a deep empathy that gave her an uncanny ability to sense what might be wrong with an unhappy dog or what would help it excel.

Carol was never interested in breeding dogs, since there are far too many dogs who are born and then abandoned. As she looked to increase the size of her kennel, she noticed that the Fairbanks North Star Borough animal shelter regularly had sled dogs. At the time, sled dogs were normally euthanized not long after arriving at the shelter; conventional wisdom was that if a sled dog was dumped at the shelter, there must be something wrong with it. As a result, people adopted very few sled dogs from the shelter.

Carol spotted a dog at the shelter, Pippi (Longstocking), who was personable, healthy, and seemed eager to please. She decided to take a chance on Pippi, who turned into one of Carol’s best mushing and skijoring dogs ever. That opened Carol’s eyes to the wonderful sled dogs who passed through the shelter, many of whom were dumped for reasons that had little to do with the dogs’ abilities and interests. Some were too slow for a sprint musher’s fast team, but proved to be an amazing distance dog, or vice versa. Some had easily solved health or behavior issues that the person dropping off the dog didn’t have the time, money, interest, or experience to resolve. Sometimes the former owner fell ill and could no longer take care of dogs. And many other reasons.

Carol mushing in North Pole

Day one of the Flint Hills Resources North Pole Championship Sled Dog Race, at the Chena Lakes Recreation Area, North Pole, Alaska, February 26, 2005. — Courtesy of Dave Partee, Sled Dog Studio

With the permission and blessing of the shelter management, Carol started taking groups of dogs out regularly and running them to see how they would do in a mushing or skijoring team. She tested them in lead and other positions. Even in a run of just two or three miles, she was able to assess each dog’s potential. Then she would write up a report on each dog and post it to the various sled dog email lists around Fairbanks. She would spend countless hours on the phone or in person with people interested in a dog, helping them feel confident in their decision. And in many cases, she dissuaded a match that wasn’t right for whatever reason, often redirecting people to another dog that would be a better choice.

In 2003, Carol and several other wonderful sled dog people in Fairbanks started Second Chance League, a 501(c)3 nonprofit sled dog rescue organization that continues to this day. Until shortly before her death, Carol continued to facilitate matching people with dogs, or helping abandoned dogs find their way to safety.

Over the years, Carol had a direct hand in well over 500 hundred dogs finding their perfect, permanent, loving homes.

At its peak, Carol and Don’s kennel had 31 wonderful dogs, almost keeping to their decision to cap the size at 30 dogs! Most were Alaskan huskies, and most were working sled dogs, although a few chose not to be, most notably Ivy. (Ivy was always happiest as a couch potato and riding in the car.) Together, Carol and Don fostered and then inevitably adopted more than 20 dogs that came through the animal shelter.

Carol running at Granite Tors - 2013

Carol running at Granite Tors – 2013

In recent years, Carol was active in a variety of organizations and activities. She was an endurance athlete, running the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks more than 20 times and running ultramarathons in several places elsewhere in the United States. She participated each year in the Alaska International Senior Games, doing running, cycling, bowling, and other sports. She always loved music and had a lovely soprano singing voice, singing in the local Peace Choir for many years. She took up the ukulele and harmonica, and played with various groups in Fairbanks.

Carol also loved to travel. Trips in the last couple of years included visits to New York City and California to visit her dear niece Greta, an established singer/actor. In NYC they went to every Broadway performance they could get tickets to, and in California Carol was able to see Greta perform as Patsy Cline in Always…Patsy Cline.

One thing Carol loved more than almost anything else was camping and remote-cabin trips in Alaska with good friends and everyone’s dogs. It was a sad day when she grew too ill to even hike anymore.

For several years she was a tour guide with Northern Alaska Tour Company, filling her tours to the Arctic Circle, Coldfoot, and Denali National Park with stories of her life in Alaska and introducing her guests to the wonders of this place. During this time she also became an avid aurora chaser and skilled photographer.

Through all these activities, Carol touched many lives and made many dear friends in Fairbanks and around the world.

Carol was preceded in death by her father, Donald Stewart Kleckner. She is survived by her mother, Audrey Loretta Kleckner, in St. Clairsville, Ohio; her sister Karen Whitehouse in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky; her sister Janice Kleckner in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and her niece, Greta Kleckner, in New York City.

– Big thanks to several of Carol’s dear friends and family members for suggestions, feedback, final editing, and photos!

Thank you to the folks who have asked about donations in Carol’s memory. Here are the charities that Carol wanted to support:

A couple of these don’t have obvious ways to do online donations, but presumably any would take checks by mail. Full disclosure: SCL is completely volunteer run, and I (Don) am the president of the board, and I’m on the staff of The Folk School.

A couple of people asked about hospice. They entered the picture relatively late, after Carol and I talked about donations. The only way to donate to them seems to be through the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Foundation, and you can direct the donation to hospice. (That link is as direct as I can make it without going too far down a rabbit hole; scroll down to hospice.)

On behalf of Carol’s wonderful memory, thank you!

[Edited to add: Carol’s death notice was just published on, which the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner uses for its obituaries. There is a link to “send flowers,” but I have no idea where they’d be sending flowers to. At best we’ll have an online celebration of her life soon, and hopefully an in-person celebration some many months from now when it is safe. Don’t send flowers anywhere!]

Gilly’s great adventure

Written by Gilly and Carol

GillyI was brought to the Fairbanks shelter with my mother for who knows what reason!!  I don’t!!  But my name used to be Whitey.  Then changed to Amelia at the shelter.  I didn’t really like either of these.

Carol and The Second Chance League got me out of the shelter and found me a great foster person in Lindsey.  She named me Gilly. I was at the shelter for 23 days with no one really looking at me (I was very shy).  Lindsey worked hard with me for nearly 3 months.  And I learned to trust her and love her!!  Something I didn’t think I could ever do.  Really trust a person.  She ran with me twice a day!  So much fun.  She soon started to let me run without a leash and I always came back to her!  I turned from a timid fearful dog into a happy girl, although I was still leery of many people.

CarolGilly is a smaller pointer/husky mix with a great personality and a big smile!  Lindsay did a great job of earning Gilly’s trust and we will be forever grateful.  Lindsey travels quite a bit for work.  Don and I even took Gilly for 10 days while she was gone.  So Gilly got to know us.  When someone (from Soldotna!) was interested Lindsey decided that since she traveled so much for work that it was in the best interest of Gilly to have a more stable home.  It was an incredibly hard decision for Lindsey to make because she really loves Gilly.

Gilly: So one day Carol comes by and we load a lot of my stuff (blankie, food, treats) into her car and we go for a long drive to a place called Talkeetna.  ROAD TRIP!  Fun!!  I think I saw some water stuff coming out of Lindsey’s eyes.  Humans do this.  Not sure why.  But I felt she was sad.

Carol: Gilly was pretty good in the car.  Stacie her new owner and I decided that Talkeetna was about half way for both of us.  So we decided to meet up there.  We took a couple of walk breaks on the way down and since we were early I got to run Gilly around for an hour before Stacie and her friend met up with us.  It was kind of sad for me because I had really grown to love this little dog, but I knew it would be a great home.  Gilly was unsure (of course she had never seen these people before!!) but we got her in their truck and I said to text if they had any problem and I drove 60 miles north to camp on my way back to Fairbanks.

Gilly: I was tired after my long car ride but these nice people had all of my stuff so I went with them.  But I was unsure and a little scared.  Very scared actually!  They decided to camp that night before going to my new home the next day.  We went into Talkeetna.  At one point as Stacie was getting out of the truck I bolted over her and ran!!  I didn’t know these folks and I guess my fear instinct came back.  Stacie seemed so nice and I saw her a couple of times but I wouldn’t go to her.  Then I went into the woods and disappeared.

Carol:  I’m camped and got the dreaded text.  “Gilly bolted and we can’t get her.”  OH NO!!  So at midnight maybe 1 am (it’s all a blur) I headed back to Talkeetna.  Stacie texting me to where they were camping (down a sketchy road by the Talkeetna River).  We walked all the trails down there calling her.  A couple of other people were camped so we tried to respect them.  At 3:42 in the morning we heard a local dog yard (at the time I had no idea where it was) start to bark.  Maybe Gilly had found them?  She LOVES all other dogs.   Around 4 am we tried to get some sleep.  I slept until a little before 6 am.  At exactly 6 am we heard a couple of gun shots.  My heart sank.  I started to cry.  Please please….don’t let someone be shooting at a loose dog!

Gilly: I’m not sure where I was.  I had never been in such a large forest with ferns 5 foot tall and so much wetness and mosquitos.  I may have passed that dog yard.  Don’t remember.

Carol: I couldn’t sleep so got in my car a little after 6 and started driving around.  Trying to find that dog yard.  I came back to camp several times (Stacie may have gotten a couple of hours of sleep!  I think I had an hour) and once I saw Stacie was up we then started walking again.  All over.  We went into town and I got some paper and makers and started making signs.  Stopped at the RV park close to where they had lost her.  I asked the owner if he knew of a local dog yard.  Yes!  He drew me a map to Jerry Sousa’s place.  He is an Iditarod musher and his kennel is just over the hill from where we were camped.  I put up a sign at the RV park and Stacie and I headed to Jerry’s.  We thought no one was home so left a flyer on their door.  Kathy came out and we explained what had happened.  She said she would keep an eye out. I think I hung around 7 signs (which I did get later!)

Gilly: I’m so tired!  But Lindsey or Carol have got to be here somewhere!  I’ll keep looking and trying to stay away from all these other people.  Too many people. And bikers and runners and 4 wheelers.  I’m very scared.

Carol: We hung signs all over town and talked to dozens of people.  No one had seen the creamy little dog.  Stacie felt that she might not come up to us if it was both of us.  So I said that it might be good if they went home.  I think that Gilly would come to me but even after many hours some dogs just go feral and get afraid of everyone.  So I was worried.  They left and I spent the rest of the day walking and driving around and talking to many people.  I must say, the people of Talkeetna are really great!  Everyone was concerned.  Bill B. camping at the RV park and from Fairbanks said he was telling all the people in the campground about the little lost dog.  I was quite exhausted. I had gone to a little campground in town and around 8 pm I just couldn’t walk another step.  So I was sitting in my car and I get a phone call.  From Jerry Sousa!!  He had seen Gilly at the RR tracks and thought she looked lost but it wasn’t until he got home and saw the flyer we left at his house that he knew it was her. He told me where he last saw her so I jump in my car and head over that way.  No sign of her.

Gilly: Oh how tired I had become.  But I do like to meet other dogs and I like when I see people on bicycles and I saw a woman on a bike.  She was going fast so I chased her.  Maybe it was Lindsey or Carol!!  We crossed over this RR bridge to the other side of the river.  It was a narrow little people path.  But then I lost the bike and I couldn’t get back to the other side.

Carol: I called and called.  No Gilly.  I drove down towards the boat launch and at a big flat area there were a dozen people having a camping party.  I stopped my car and went over and asked if they had seen her.  I showed them a picture I had on my phone.  YES!!!  They said about an hour ago and they thought she went over the RR bridge.  I left my car and ran down there and up the rocky hill to the bridge.  Over to the other side.  I spent around 15 minutes calling and looking around.  No Gilly.  Then GILLY!!!  She was up the hill on the RR tracks!  We both stopped.  Would she bolt?  I started running the other way calling her.  Gilly Gilly Gilly.  Let’s go Run!  Gilly!  She screamed.  Actually cried.  She came tearing down to me screaming and jumping and elated to see someone she knew.  I was crying and got the leash on her.  I haven’t felt that kind of relief in a long time.

Gilly: CAROL!!  I can’t believe it.  There she is!  I was terrified on the RR tracks.  I couldn’t seem to find the way back across the bridge.  I ran so fast to her.  I knocked off her glasses and nearly knocked her down.  I was crying and so happy.  Carol had that water coming out of her eyes and she was hugging me and I could feel she was so happy.

Carol:  I was bawling.  I didn’t know if she would be found.  If she had been shot.  If she was heading back to Fairbanks through dense forests.  I went back to my car and when the campers saw me they ALL leaped out of their chairs throwing their hands in the air and cheering.  

Gilly: Gosh was I tired!!  I don’t think I layed down at all for nearly 24 hours.  And no one had seen me in 20 hours.  But there was Carol and there was her car.  Heaven!

Carol: I can’t thank the people of Talkeetna enough.  After I had texted to Don and Stacie and called Lindsey to say that I had her, the outpouring from my heart to all the people looking for this pup overwhelmed me.  And Jerry really set the ball in motion with that first phone call that she had been sighted.  We went back to the campground and slept in the back of my car.  I was to meet Stacie at 9 am in Anchorage.  I’m happy that Stacie decided to stick with this little dog even though she bolted.  Stacie is a runner and a very active outdoors person so I knew it would be a great home for Gilly.  They just needed time to bond.

Gilly: Oh I was so very very tired.  I fell asleep and Carol would often have to move my legs off her or from under her and she said I was like a “gumby” dog.  Whatever that means!!  I didn’t wake up.  The next morning we took off again and I slept all the way.  I saw Stacie and wagged my tail and when she opened her truck door I jumped right up in.  This time she put me on a leash so I couldn’t bolt, but I don’t think I will do that again.  

Carol: I had 27,500 steps on my garmin watch for that day.  And that was just walking around Talkeetna and all the trails.  I was happy to head north and drove all the way back to Fairbanks (with a stop for a 2 hour nap!).  Gilly met Stacie’s friend’s dogs and that was good to do that as Gilly just loves other dogs and she certainly loved these dogs.  She is getting used to the cat in the house.  She has a plush dog bed and 6 acres of land with about 1/2 acre fenced in.  I’m hoping to hear more great things about this girl.



Wheeled Cart

Wheeled cart.  This is an older cart but in good shape.  The tires should probably be replaced but they hold air.  They are cracked and brittle.

OFFER!!  Anything that is paid for this will go to the Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund.

I can deliver if in the Fairbanks area.



Free 20 hole dog box

UPDATE:  Box found a great home!  I’m sure to see it around town.

FREE 20 hole box.  I’ve had this for many years.  Always garaged, but needs some work.  Doesn’t leak.  Whoever takes this must take it off the truck themselves.  I can help!  But this is super heavy and will need many people to unload it off the truck.  When I got it I think there were 8 of us that moved it!!

Web site update

You may have noticed that the site is looking a little different.  Don is working on it and upgrading the site.  Everything will look much better in a few days.

Bunches of dogs

Wow…..for several years we have been super lucky with not a lot of huskies being given up to the Fairbanks animal shelter.  But just this week a musher is starting to drop off his whole kennel.  Could be over 20 dogs when it is all said and done.  So I have been posting them as they come in.  They are all in pretty good shape.  Some have neck rub from ill fitting collars.  Some are a bit shy.  They mostly have good weight on them and some are super super friendly.  We are hoping to find homes for them.


I don’t know how I have accumulated so many bowls through the years, but I’m cleaning house!


12 1 quart stainless bowls.  $2.00 each

13 rounded stainless bowls  $3.00 each

5 no tip stainless bowls $3.00 each

8- 2 quart stainless bowls $3.00 each

6 deep square 2 quart stainless bowls $3.00 each

If you want them all $100.00






Few Dogs!

Lately we have been extremely lucky in not having dozens of husky/sled dogs dropped off at the shelter.  This is good from my point of view as maybe people aren’t breeding as much and dumping dogs.  But from someone that is looking for a husky either as a pet or as a working dog, we are seeing a scarcity that we have rarely seen before.  Not that I want to jinx the streak, but it sure is nice that there aren’t dogs chained out back at the shelter.



Update May:  Juliet has been adopted!

Update: March Juliet has been in foster care learning house training and learning to adjust to new things.  She is ready to go!  Such a sweetie.

January 12:  I stopped by the shelter today.  Juliet is the only dog chained outside.  So sad for her.  She was loose in the giant dog yard area and that little girl was running and running.  But then would come right up to me for pets and love.  She has come a long way and would make a great pet for an active person.  She was chasing the pigeons a bit but when one of the volunteers took her inside to see how she was with cats and rabbits she seems fine.  She was touching noses with a rabbit and although she was curious about the cats meowing she didn’t seem prey driven.  I hope someone active falls in love with this little girl.


I LOVE this little girl.  Did I say little?  She is a very petite husky.  Probably 25 pounds.  A tiny thing.  She came into the shelter with 2 puppies that got adopted.  She was spayed and is ready to be your best friend.  She comes across as a bit shy, but once you get to know her, she just wants to play and be someone’s special friend.  When let loose in the fenced in area she comes up to you readily.  She will take a little time to truly bond with you, but in her eyes I bet that won’t take long.

She isn’t housebroken which is how she ended up outside.  Just doesn’t keep her kennel clean.  But with a very consistent routine of eating and drinking I know she would catch on.  She deserves to live in a house.  She is short coated and doesn’t want to live outside as a sled dog!!