When Florence Roberts was interviewed in 2006 about her plans to run for Whitehorse City Council, she called herself “a candidate that walks the walk and talks the talk.”
Her friends and former colleagues are remembering her as someone who did just that, both before running for office, while she represented the city, and for years afterwards.
Roberts died of leukemia on Tuesday. She was 73. The city has lowered its flags to half mast in her memory.
First a familiar face in the gallery at Whitehorse City Council meetings, Roberts was elected to council in 2006, and re-elected in 2009.
Longtime friend Lynn Alcock said she chose to run “like she chooses everything else — she just wants to be a good citizen and help out her community.”
Former mayor Bev Buckway served with Roberts and the two remained friends. Buckway said Yukoners had a lot of reasons to encourage Roberts to run for municipal office.
“I think they saw her as one who can take action. She was always a champion for various causes and if she saw something that she thought she could… change for the better she certainly always spoke up about it.”
She had a particular drive to improve the city’s transit system, Buckway said. During Roberts’ tenure on council the amount of transit available in Whitehorse expanded and the city was able to replace all of its buses with newer models that kneel so that people with mobility issues can get on and off.
“That was one of the things about Florence, you could always count on her to show up,” Buckway said.
“Even when she was a councillor, she would always show up.… You could always count on her, you know?”
The list of volunteer organizations that benefited from Roberts “showing up” is a long one.
In her time in the territory she was on the Whitehorse housing advisory board, the utilities board and the board for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, to name a few. She volunteered at the city’s Halloween parties and was always willing to help out at biathlon tournaments, including at the Arctic Winter Games.
“I specifically remember her saying she had to put on so many layers of clothes to go up there because it was so cold, but she wasn’t going to miss it for nothing,” Buckway said.
Roberts called the Yukon home for more than four decades. In that amount of time, you get to know a few people.
Alcock first met Roberts in the 1980s after just arriving in the territory.
“I thought, holy smokes, are all the women in the Yukon like this?” she said.
“(She was) very opinionated, very feisty, with a heart of gold.”
The two became close friends. Over the last few years they volunteered with the Red Cross’s health equipment loan program. There, people can borrow wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment they need for a short time.
“Everybody who walked in the door knew her and she knew them,” Alcock said.
“I didn’t even have to ask anymore, ‘Pardon me, what’s your name?’ Flo would say, ‘Oh hi, so-and-so.’
“I think she knew everybody in the Yukon.”
Roberts was volunteer for the Yukoners Cancer Care Fund since it was created in early 2012.
The fund helps people with cancer cover some of the out-of-pocket costs that can come with treatment.
“Flo was there for the first meeting and she stuck with me through the whole thing,” said Geraldine Van Bibber, one of the founding volunteers.
“Even this last week she was texting me asking when our next meeting was.”
Whatever fundraiser they were planning, Roberts was always willing to help out, Van Bibber said.
“I just loved her wit and sense of humour.”
Alcock said she thinks her friend would want to be remembered as someone who wanted the best for her community.
“I wish there were more like her in the territory.”
No funeral or memorial plans for Roberts have been made public yet.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org