Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Ahmuty remembered for athleticism, enthusiasm


Kaci Ahmuty

Former resident Kaci Ahmuty died in Bend, Ore. on April 25.

She was 45 and had battled breast cancer and brain cancer since 2013, said husband Michael Ahmuty. "When we decided to forgo future treatment, Kaci said 'I have no regrets. I have had a great life.'"

Ahumty was a river guide and a popular waitress at the Halsingland Hotel, Fireweed Restaurant and Mosey's. "Her wide smile with the sweet gap between her two front teeth could lift you out of any funk," said friend Mandy Ramsey.

Ahmuty arrived in Haines in 1997 with college friends and after a season working at the Halsingland, trained with Chilkat Guides, quickly becoming a guide on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers. She also rowed the Colorado River and the Omo River in Ethiopia.

She was "right up there on top" among river guides, said fellow guide Joe Ordonez. "Kaci cared about the people, she cared about the river, she cared about the company, she was strong, and she was safe. She had an amazing personality and really connected with people."

Ordonez said Ahmuty was fun company, singing old-time songs around a campfire and pulling physical gags. "She'd stick orange peels in her mouth and smile when you weren't expecting it, and everybody would crack up."

After her first child was born, Ahumty cared for her family and waitressed seasonally. She transformed an old fixer-upper into a home full of animals and gardens she dubbed "Green Acres." She hung a disco ball in the living room, painted a sunrise on an exterior wall and celebrated her 40th birthday by torching a barn. "That was the way Kaci lived. She was a barn-burner of a woman," her husband said.

"Kaci loved being on the river, and the outdoors was a huge love. But the highlight for her was being a mom to Riley and Cassidy," said friend Tina Schaefer.

Renee Hoffman waited tables at Mosey's with Ahmuty and marveled at the way she kept her good humor even with difficult customers. "Kaci had super-good energy," she said.

Kaci was born on Oct. 27, 1971 in San Gabriel, Calif., to KC and Gayle Keffer. She grew up skiing, surfing and camping. On the Woodbridge High School track team, her times in the 400-meter run (56.54) and 300-meter hurdles (42.84) ranked her nationally in 1990, the year she graduated.

She anchored record-breaking relays for Woodbridge, earned MVP honors at major meets, and according to the L.A .Times, "So as not to get bored, Keffer also occasionally competed in the 200, 800, long jump, shotput and discus."

She told the Times that she joined the team her freshman year because her father signed her up. "I didn't know anything,'" Keffer said. "'(Coach George) Varvas would say, 'Okay, run a mile.' And I'd be like, 'Uh, how far is that?'"

Four years and three state-meet podiums later, Ahumty was the LA Times' Orange County athlete of the year in girls' track and field.

Following graduation, she moved to Wyoming with her parents, attended the University of Wyoming, and didn't compete again, in spite of track scholarship offers from dozens of universities and all four military academies, her father said.

Schaefer met Ahmuty at the university when they were freshman. "Kaci didn't want to practice so hard anymore. She wanted to be on the beach" or skiing, she said.

After college she worked at a Laramie health food store before heading to Haines. She met Michael Ahumty at Chilkat Guides. They were married on June 30, 2007 at Chilkat State Park with their daughter Riley serving as flower girl and her father officiating.

"She was so happy, she just loved our wedding day. Kaci really loved family," Michael said. Ahmuty moved to Bend when her husband started a rafting company there. There will be a celebration of her life 3 p.m. Sunday at the Riverhouse there.

"Kaci chose the playlist," Mandy Ramsey said. "I can hear her saying, 'Put your party pants on.'"

Ahmuty remained inspiring to the end, Rene Hoffman said, "'It's all about love, that's the only thing that matters.' Kaci repeated that over and over."

Kaci Ahmuty is survived by husband Michael and daughters Riley and Cassidy Ahmuty, of Bend; parents KC and Gayle Keffer of Cheyenne; sisters Andrea Clarke and Kelly Dufourd of Denver, and brother Steven Keffer of Albuquerque. Cards may be sent to 63134 Riverstone Dr., Bend, OR, 97703.

A potluck celebration of "Life and Love for Kaci Keffer-Ahmuty" will take place 5 p.m. Friday, May 12 at the Letnikof Cove pavilion.


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