Longtime advocate, attorney and WPS director dies

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Review file photo

Veteran White Pine Stampede Race Director Jack McKaig gives final instruction to competitors prior to the event two years ago. McKaig oversaw the popular race each February for more than four decades.


MANCELONA – The region lost one of its biggest advocates earlier this week when longtime White Pine Stampede race director Jack McKaig passed away.

Also a Mancelona area attorney who was well-known for his work to defend and protect children, McKaig was the cross country ski race's sole director and leader for its entire 42-year history.

Born in Detroit, McKaig moved north after serving in the U.S. Army and graduating from the University of Michigan and law school, hanging his shingle as an attorney in Mancelona, where he attended his first Chamber of Commerce meeting in 1976.

There he heard a presentation from a man with a dream of a point-to-point cross country ski race. Gus Knopknicki's dream became McKaig's – and a reality the following year.

"I had no clue what I was doing, and had never been on cross country skis before," he recalled years later of his early days as the race's volunteer director. "But as a member of an ROTC rifle team in college, I was fascinated with athletes who competed in the biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting."

McKaig was at the finish line of that first very cold and challenging race, and at the finish line of every one of the 41 races after that. 

"Love is not a big enough word for how Dad felt about this race," said McKaig’s daughter Heather in a Facebook posting on Monday.

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