Remembering a lifelong Yukoner

Lloyd Ryder was one of the few Yukoners who was around when Whitehorse was a town of only 300 people. When he died earlier this month at the age of 87, Ryder left behind a legion of friends and family around the territory.

Lloyd Ryder was one of the few Yukoners who was around when Whitehorse was a town of only 300 people.

When he died earlier this month at the age of 87, Ryder left behind a legion of friends and family around the territory.

A “dyed in the wool” Yukoner, Ryder knew the region like the back of his hand, said his wife Marny.

Born and raised in Whitehorse, Ryder was best remembered for his lifetime dedication to flying, a passion he took up in 1955.

Ryder met his wife while he was piloting a medevac flight.

Marny had come from the Ottawa Valley to work as a community health nurse in the Yukon, flying between communities like Ross River and Telegraph Creek.

“He was the pilot, I was the nurse … we were bound to meet sooner or later,” she said.

“Since then, during all our years of marriage, we’ve been best friends.”

While flying with him it was easy to see that he was in his element, said Marny.

“He used to say that he was ‘above it all’ while flying. It was in his bones, he loved to fly.”

In 1962, Ryder began piloting commercially for the Whitehorse Flying Service – a job he kept throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Two years later, he would famously fly Senator Robert Kennedy’s companions to the St. Elias Mountains where Kennedy would become the first person to climb Mount Kennedy, named after his brother John.

He didn’t actually fly Kennedy himself, at that time Kennedy wasn’t allowed in a single-engine plane, but he met Kennedy at the base of the mountain.

But that, and the time he flew explorer Brad Washburn, were just like any other flights for him, said Bob Cameron, of his mentor and longtime friend.

“He didn’t get a big head about these sorts of things.”

Ryder usually piloted de-Havilland Beavers, which were vital links to remote camps and communities in the Yukon.

He spent a lot of time shlepping climbers and Japanese tourists on private charters to the St. Elias mountain range.

“Having gone up there with him I can see why he loved it – it was pristine,” said Marny.

Ryder was an outdoorsman who loved to fish, hunt and ski with his father and family friends.

“He was never exactly successful at hunting, but he loved being outdoors,” said Marny with a laugh.

Before becoming a pilot, Ryder used to deliver oil and wood to people in Whitehorse such as Cameron.

Ryder, along with Cameron’s father, who were longtime friends, up and left the Yukon in 1943 hoping to become “war heroes,” said Cameron.

But Ryder missed his chance and was sent overseas only after all the action had died down.

“They laughed about it for years,” said Cameron. “Lloyd got there in time for the victory parades.

“He was there getting adulation and kisses from all the Dutch girls.

“I can still see him there at the parade with that Lloyd Ryder grin on his face.”

It was that friendliness and good nature that he will be remembered by, said his childhood friend Gudrun Sparling.

“He loved being around people.”

His interest and dedication to others is what made him such a pillar in the community, she said.

Ryder was known for the many community groups and associations he volunteered for, particularly the Lion’s Club.

“He was the type of man who never looked for recognition, but got it because he was such a nice guy,” said Marny.

In 1995, he and his wife were nominated Mr. and Mrs. Yukon, a time of their lives that she still remembers fondly.

And well into his 80s, Ryder was still helping to put up the Christmas tree on Main Street.

It was only up until the very end that he was unable to get involved in the community.

In June, he had a valve replaced in his heart following a cardiac arrest seven years ago in Dawson.

However, the antibiotics he was given after the procedure didn’t react well with him.

“It knocked the stuffing out of him – he never fully recovered after that,” said Marny.

As a nurse, Marny gave both emotional and medical support to her husband in those last months.

But having those extra skills wasn’t always easy.

“It was good and bad,” she said.

“There was a feeling of helplessness because I couldn’t make him better.

“You go into nursing with the lofty idea that you can help everyone. So it was tough not being able to help him.”

In the new year family and friends will gather to remember and honour Ryder.

They’re hoping it will be a happy event, said Marny.

Hank Carr and Mary McAvoy, local singers Ryder both admired, will play at the memorial.

And she expects that a large gathering of people who knew Ryder will be there to pay their respects.

The memorial will be held on January 3rd at Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre at 2 p.m.

Contact Vivian Belik at