Carmacks’s first mayor remembered

Carmacks lost its first elected mayor on Monday, a man remembered as a loving joker, brother and - most of all - a committed community politician.

Carmacks lost its first elected mayor on Monday, a man remembered as a loving joker, brother and – most of all – a committed community politician.

Luke Lacasse died in the early morning on Jan. 7 in Whitehorse after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 80.

Lacasse served as the mayor when Carmacks was first incorporated and held the post from 1985 to 1991. He was re-elected in 1996 and remained in the mayor’s chair until his retirement in 2003. He still holds the record as the community’s longest-serving mayor.

“I think he felt community was very important. I think he strived to make the community a better place, and recognize recreation as being a priority in the community,” said Karen Gage, who served as a councillor with Lacasse for two terms.

For all the work he did, helping to establish the community’s recreation centre and tackling challenging infrastructure problems, Gage remembers Lacasse more for the way he did things than for the accomplishments themselves.

“He was a very good mayor. He was a very good leader, a natural leader. Even if he disagreed with people, he would let everyone have their say. He was very fair with people. It made people feel worthwhile,” Gage said.

Not that his achievements themselves were insignificant. Last year, Lacasse was honoured with the Association of Yukon Communities Hanseatic Award for his outstanding contribution to Carmacks and the Yukon.

“He was instrumental in getting our recreation complex off the ground. I think recreation being recognized in the community is going to be one of his legacies,” said current Mayor Elaine Wyatt.

Dennis Mitchel is a longtime friend of the Lacasse family, and was close with Luke.

“He got me a job as recreation director. They were stuck for a director, and I didn’t really want to do it. But he talked me into it and I loved it. He was a great boss,” Mitchel said.

Like any politician, Lacasse wasn’t without his detractors, but he dealt with them in an uncharacteristic way.

“I was sitting in a council meeting one day and a guy came in and called Luke an (expletive), said and ‘I don’t like you.’ Well, Luke just looked at him and said, ‘Well, I don’t know why you don’t like me. I love you.’ The whole room burst out laughing. That was his way of dealing with things. He didn’t get dragged into it. It was absolutely classic Luke,” Mitchel said.

Luke was the eldest of eight children. His younger siblings used to call him “the Kingpin.”

“If anyone wanted a brother, that’s the guy you wanted to have next to you. He was just always there for you. He had a very good sense of humour. He could pull a prank on you and he could also take a prank,” said Joe Lacasse, Luke’s youngest brother.

A funeral was held today at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse. There is also a reception and wake planned at the CYO Hall that is open to the public.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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