My friend Jan O. recently told me she liked my research ideas about the Memorial Bench people.

She said she worked with Joan Veinott and that everyone who knew her says the same thing: Joan Veinott was amazing!

When I spoke with Veinott’s daughter, Linda Smeeton, she also exclaimed that her mother was an amazing woman: lots of energy for family, work and volunteering in her community.

Born in Ottawa in 1931, Veinott attended Carleton University. She became an air traffic controller and eventually joined the Air Force. She met Arnold, an aero engine mechanic, through the Forces. They married in 1954.

Like many young Canadians after the war, they moved north with the Forces. Joan and Arnold arrived in 1952, both employed in the military.

Early in 1960, the Veinotts wanted to try something new. They packed up their belongings and headed to Carmacks. There they managed the Taylor and Drury store.

They discovered that it was a pretty long drive between Carmacks and Whitehorse in those days. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a coffee stop somewhere in the middle?

Leaving the Taylor and Drury store, the Veinotts purchased some land, cleared it and dug the first well. Starting with just a coffee shop, the Veinotts built and ran the Braeburn Lodge in the early 1960s.

By late 1962 they had moved again. Joan worked for the late Eric Nielsen in his law office. After daughter Linda was born, Joan joined the Yukon Territorial Government as Public Administrator.

At this time she held down two jobs, also being the territory’s Chief Coroner. My friend Jan worked at a desk close by. Remembering Veinott’s energy and love of life, Jan chuckles.

Veinott received a 30-year long service pin from YTG, where she worked until her passing in 1993.

At the same time as raising her family and working full time, Veinott worked tirelessly for many volunteer organizations. She was very active with the Canadian Cancer Society as well as Yukon Learn.

Linda Smeeton has inherited her mother’s work ethic and energy. Along with her husband, Smeeton owns Polaris Checkered Flag Recreation in downtown Whitehorse. Smeeton’s teenaged son was working in the store the day I visited, so the energy and drive will continue to another generation.

As well as their daughter, Linda, the Veinotts have a son, Richard, who lives in Vancouver.

Arnold lives in Whitehorse now, and lovingly remembers Joan – a real Yukon pioneer.