Flo Whyard was born in 1917, in London, Ontario, and grew up in a family of newspapermen and political junkies. Her father sat in the Press Gallery, inside the House of Commons, and wrote his articles at night while Whyard fell asleep.
“I was still small enough to fit in a crib, and banging away on the other side of the wall was my Dad, typing on the typewriter.
“It was my lullaby,” says Whyard.
And, as she grew up, her father’s profession became increasingly influential to her. “I got interested in politics because I heard it at the supper table,” Whyard says.
Whyard insists that, by growing up in this environment, she was born into a writing career. “[I didn’t] become a writer,” she says. “I grew up in a family where everyone is doing it, so I did it.”
After arriving in the Yukon with her husband, Jim, Whyard set about fulfilling this destiny. At first she wrote for Alaska Magazine and The MILEPOST. Then she moved on to the Whitehorse Star where she became the editor.
“I think it was one of the most exciting newspapers in Canada to work for because there was so much going on [in Whitehorse],” she says.
As editor, her interest in local affairs was peaked and she successfully ran for mayor of Whitehorse in 1981.
Whyard was a consensus builder.
“I don’t think I was ever really a politician,” she says. “I could work together with others and there were no party lines.”
Quite apart from her involvement in politics and writing, Whyard also had a passion for the sky. She received a pilot’s license at the onset of World War II and parlayed this into a job, training provisional pilot officers for the war effort.
The memories of those whom she trained are still with her.
“I still think of some of those young boys who should have been heads of government or institutions. But they weren’t here.
“I think it was a great loss for Canada.”
There is no doubt that her varied accomplishments are impressive, but Whyard is self-deprecating when asked about them. “Oh, that was a long time ago,” she says with a dismissive wave of her hand.
She seems to believe that because these accomplishments were achieved in years gone by, they are no longer significant. Most of us would argue the opposite: that these accomplishments gain their significance precisely because they happened many years ago, in eras when women weren’t supposed to be so talented.
Whyard always found that the best tool for achieving equality was also one of the simplest – competence.
“[Women] were accepted. If we did the job fine, we were in; if we didn’t, we were out.” That being said, she does acknowledge the “brave souls that broke through barriers”.
Today, Whyard is living comfortably at Macaulay Lodge. It’s a bit hard to picture someone with her independent spirit living in such a place, but she approaches this chapter of her life with the same mixture of common sense and stoicism that have marked most of the adventures.
“I’m realistic,” she says, “and I can’t think of a better place than this for a person my age.”