Many Alaskans are here because they love where they live, and Rod Udd showed it every day. The longtime businessman died last week on Jan. 22, following a lengthy illness. He was 78.

Rod Udd. Courtesy Alaska Aces

Friends and family gathered at the Anchorage Baptist Temple Saturday to remember his life. 

“The sounds you heard on Jan. 23, was the express elevator taking Rod straight to heaven,” Chuck Talsky, a longtime friend to Udd, said at the funeral. “He earned it.”

Udd came to Anchorage in the 1960s after graduating from Seattle Pacific University. In 1989, he took over as the owner of Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Center after working there for several years, according to a statement from the company. His new role led him to start a tradition the next year — he donated a vehicle to the winner of the Iditarod, a tradition that his company continues to honor.

“Rod loved the Last Great Race, hailed as ‘Idita-Rod,’ as we all know,” Talsky joked. 

But his love of sports extended well beyond the sled dog racing trail. He became a sponsor of the Alaska Aces and then a minority owner of the team in 2003, after the team nearly folded. 

Following his death, the Alaska Aces added a patch to their jerseys honoring Rod Udd.

He supported many other organizations outside the sports arena as well, from the Boys and Girls Club to military service members and veterans. His generosity and support earned him the “Big Heart of Anchorage” award from the Anchorage Downtown Partnership shortly before his death, according to Talsky.

“He won, not because I write that well, but because he deserved it, and because his heart was big enough and warm enough to include so many in need,” Talsky said of the award. 

In the end, those who knew Udd said he was a man who made the Great Land even greater.

“Rod always made an impression, every time you met him,” according to Talsky. 

Udd’s ashes will be spread along a family burial site in Washington state, according to his family.

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