In town for the long haul

In 1952, when Evelyn and Lloyd Kostiuk drove north with their young son Pat, the trip from Fort St. John to Watson Lake took three days. When they got as far as Lucky Lake, a few miles south of Watson, after seeing nothing but stunted spruce trees and sand or moss,

Watson Lake

In 1952, when Evelyn and Lloyd Kostiuk drove north with their young son Pat, the trip from Fort St. John to Watson Lake took three days.

When they got as far as Lucky Lake, a few miles south of Watson, after seeing nothing but stunted spruce trees and sand or moss, Lloyd said “Maybe this was a mistake.”

They were uneasy about the absence of grass anywhere in this landscape.

Lloyd was to put his University of Alberta schooling to work in the service of the army as a mechanic for the Northwest Highway System, and Ev was to create their home in army housing.

They’d met and married in Fort St. John, Ev leaving university and a dream of journalism and Lloyd putting away his desire to become a pilot in favour of growing a family and a life in the Far North.

Ev claims she fell for Lloyd because he was quiet and she got to do most of the talking.

Lloyd liked Ev for her red hair and, “She was the right size. And she was good-looking.”

There wasn’t much to the town in those days; a couple of hotels, the post office and a store.

The army quarters lacked privacy.

Lloyd illustrates just how close together the houses were when he tells us of an incident that saw his boss in the house next door yelling “shit disturber!” at Lloyd because he could be seen drying the dishes for Ev.

In l957, Lloyd started his own welding business as a sideline to his army job. There was no other welder in town, making his shop an immediate success.

Yukon Electric hired him in 1960. He worked there for 27 years.

“They finally chased me out, saying my pension wasn’t going to get any bigger,” he says.

It seemed he was always working when everyone else wasn’t during those years, says Ev.

Except, she notes, for bonspiel weekends.

The Kostiuks could boast shelves full of curling trophies until the sheer weight of them necessitated their removal to the basement.

Eight years of army housing later, they bought the home they live in still. Two more children were born, with the house and yard being an ideal playground winter or summer. The property is large and shows the years of work and care that have been spent making it attractive. There is an enormous garden, and Lloyd has a shop on the property where until recently he did welding projects.

Lloyd and Ev not only curled, but were avid square dancers, an activity they say is terrific exercise as well as being a lot of fun. The town boasted a busy club in those days and the dancers performed in other communities.

Frances Lake was a huge part of the pleasure of their life in the Yukon.

“You could spend a lifetime in that area and not really know it,” Lloyd says. “There’s 100 miles of shoreline on Frances Lake alone, and then there are river connections to McPherson Lake, the east arm, Anderson River and Frances River. Every summer they spent several weeks camping there, with a boat to provide a means to explore an area that can truly claim pristine wilderness. And the fishing is great.

Twice in those years they were forced to evacuate due to forest fires, with the last hasty move being achieved within 20 minutes of being told they needed to leave.

It was in 2000 that Lloyd was out on the flat calm lake by himself when he noticed a large wake in the water near the shoreline. Thinking it was likely a moose, he motored over only to find that whatever it was had gone, leaving only a column of air bubbles. The lake was 39-metres deep in that area. Lloyd says he sat in the boat with a rifle at the ready, expecting some sort of monster to come up, but nothing returned to the surface. Asking around, he found that some Kaska elders had stories of gigantic and ‘ugly’ fish that had been seen over the years. He reckons it could be sturgeon, reporting the size of the creature as indicated on the sounder would support his theory.

Since retiring, the couple have done a fair bit of travelling, visiting Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico and Arizona. For the last 17 years they have spent a significant part of the winter on Vancouver Island in Cowichan Bay, where their daughter lives with her husband and children.

Last year, they were unable to go anywhere except to Outside hospitals.

Ev suffered a debilitating condition to her upper spine that was in danger of rendering her paralyzed from the neck down. Operations resulted in titanium screws and plates being inserted into her spine.

“Lloyd could’ve done it in his shop,” says Ev. “He’s a very good welder.”

Her recovery has been slow, with Lloyd having to forgo a lot of his Frances Lake time to care for her, but she is definitely on the mend.

“When something like this happens,” Lloyd says. “You learn just how caring a community this is. There were people bringing prepared food and goodies; we got such a lot of help.”

The computer age has not been ignored in the Kostiuk household.

Lloyd took his first computer classes when he was 80, and now enjoys being able to do things like keep in touch via e-mail with a grandson who is currently working in Ethiopia.

Ev attended the first computer class, but claims they lost her when they took the computer apart and tried to acquaint her with its innards.

Are they here to stay? Or is a permanent move to Vancouver Island a temptation?

“Every time we are down there we talk about moving, but then when we get back it feels so darned good to be here,” says Ev.

Lloyd claims the last word.

“Burial at Lucky Lake is cheap.”

Tor Forsberg is a freelance writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read