I’ve been attending a number of annual general meetings lately, and the experience has simply served to reinforce something that I already knew: without the work of many dedicated volunteers, very little would get done here in Dawson.
I know this from my own work on our local paper, the Klondike Sun, which will enter its 25th year of publication this May. Palma Berger and I are the only members continuing from that 1989 start-up group, but the list of people who have contributed over the years would fill an entire page of this publication in this size print.
Most non-profit organizations eventually end up having to hire someone to run the office and help coordinate the volunteer efforts, but that doesn’t minimize the importance of those who contribute without any thought of payment.
In the case of the Sun, after Alyssa Friesen (who used to work at What’s Up Yukon) and I have put the paper together, a group of three ladies (not always the same three) takes charge of getting it out to the stores and to our subscribers.
The volunteer ethic was perhaps best underlined at the recent AGM for the Klondike Visitors Association, when executive director Gary Parker got up to make a few remarks about volunteer service.
He began with a farewell to Eric Zalitis, a former RCMP officer who retired here with his wife, Lori McCrory, some years ago. He had served on KVA boards and committees for many years and had decided not to run again this year.
“For the past 20 years,” Parker said, “Eric and Lori have also been the heart and soul of Dawson’s most successful annual winter tourism event, the Trek Over the Top snowmobile run from Tok to Dawson. It’s difficult to imagine Eric actually retiring, but he has certainly earned the right and we wish him and his family all the best.”
There’s a long history of such dedication in Dawson, and of people who were responsible for contributing to the origins of events and attractions that have outlived them.
Parker continued with a tribute to three such men.
“Sadly, 2013 marked the passing of three greatly-respected Dawsonites: Bill Bowie, Dick North and Ken Snider. In different ways their unique lives and diverse accomplishments reflect true Klondike spirit and each of them was a champion for the KVA and Yukon Tourism. They cannot be replaced, but their legacies will endure and we will remember them well.”
Bowie was instrumental in starting the annual Dawson City Gold Show, which takes place each Victoria Day weekend.
North helped to establish the Jack London Centre, was responsible for authenticating the cabin and having it moved here, and began the London Museum in the square with his own collection of memorabilia.
The Reverend Ken Snider kept the national Anglican Church from demolishing the 1902 St. Paul’s building in the 1960s, reclaimed Bishop Stringer’s House as the rectory for the parish, and once lived in the building that is now the Little Blue Daycare.
Having decided to do something a little different by holding tributes at the beginning of the meeting, Parker then went further.
“Rather than a moment of silence in their honour, let’s all stand up and applaud them – loud and proud.”
And that’s just what the membership did.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.