Flo Whyard used to grumble as she climbed the stairs at the Yukon News to pick up a paper twice a week.
And who could blame her.
Well into her 70s at the time, and needing a cane to walk, it must have been a struggle to ascend the steps to the second floor where our paper pickup was then located.
When the climb finally got to be too much, she didn’t stop coming in. Instead she simply stood at the bottom landing and hollered for someone to bring a paper down.
It was classic Flo Whyard – equally determined, independent, honest, sensible and strong-minded.
Her death this week, at the grand old age of 95, marks the end of an era in Yukon journalism.
As the daughter of an Ontario newspaperman, she always said she was born into the business. Raised on the rhythmic ratatat of a typewriter at work, it was only natural she would follow the same path.
Shortly after moving to the Yukon in the mid-1950s with her husband and young family, she started contributing stories to the Whitehorse Star. By 1964, she’d become the editor, a rare accomplishment for a woman in those days, especially in the rough-and-tumble Yukon. After nearly a decade at the Star’s helm, she turned her talents to publishing and politics. She served a stint as a minister on the territorial council and also as the mayor of Whitehorse.
But when those chapters were over, she returned to her true love – writing about the Yukon and the people of the North.
One of her favourite subjects was Martha Black, a Klondike stampeder who went on to become the second woman ever to sit in the House of Commons when elected Yukon MP in 1935.
In the 1990s, Whyard started writing a general interest column for the Star called And Now a Few Words From Flo, which continued into the new millennium.
Last fall the Yukon legislature’s press gallery was named in her honour.
Initially it caused a little behind-the-scenes grousing, mostly because the “press” had no say in the matter and also because she had never worked there.
But in many ways she was the obvious choice.
A force to be reckoned with. A journalist who not only paved the way on many fronts, but stayed in the Yukon and dedicated much of her life to researching and writing about the territory. A woman who has served as a role model for others considering a career in journalism or politics or both. A true spirit of the North.
So it’s our pleasure to devote a few last column inches to a woman who spent so much of her life doing the same for so many other Yukoners.
May Flo and her legendary red edit pencil, rest in peace.