Popular placer inspector mourned

George Gilbert, well known in the Yukon’s mining industry and a resident of Whitehorse for more than 40 years, died Thursday at Whitehorse…

George Gilbert, well known in the Yukon’s mining industry and a resident of Whitehorse for more than 40 years, died Thursday at Whitehorse General Hospital.

He was 82.

“He was one of the most knowledgeable men that I knew in the placer mining industry,” said Doug Bell, a friend of Gilbert’s.

In the early ‘80s, then-governor general Edward Schreyer travelled to Dawson City, drawn by an interest in placer mining.

 “He needed someone to show him around,” said Bell. “George was the natural choice.”

Schreyer was a down-to-earth man, much like Gilbert, and the two hit it off.

During the trip, he had even “twisted” a cigarette or two for Schreyer, said Bell.

His friends found this to be pretty funny and made Gilbert a plaque for his desk, of the type that usually display job titles.

It read: Purveyor of Twistings for the Governor General.

Gilbert moved to Whitehorse in 1967, having been appointed Newmont Mining’s resident geologist for the Yukon.

He later transferred to the federal government’s mining section, retiring in 1989 as chief placer inspector.

Born in Vancouver in 1925, Gilbert grew up in the mining town of Wells, BC, having moved with his family to this new community in 1934, the year it was established.

He took to the outdoors from an early age — hiking and camping, hunting and fishing, climbing and prospecting.

After finishing school, he joined the air force during the latter stages of the Second World War, serving two years.

Returning to the Wells-Barkerville area of BC in 1946, he worked at various mining and guiding jobs before joining Cariboo Gold Quartz fulltime.

He remained with this mining firm for 20 years, eventually attaining the position of manager.

Through the 1940s and ‘50s, he spent many weekends and vacations tramping through the Cariboo Mountains, or building camps and cabins around the world-renowned Bowron Lake canoe circuit in the days before it became a provincial park.

His mapping of the Bowron chain provided the basis for the current parks branch maps of the area.

His notes and photos from this era later became the basis for a book of his stories published in 2000 under the title Kicked by a Dead Moose, which also includes many Yukon tales.

His voracious appetite for reading resulted in a wide knowledge of an incredible range of subjects, history being his favourite.

He was also highly skilled and inventive in his home workshop, turning out everything from furniture and lapidary products, to canoe paddles and other outdoor equipment.

Gilbert and his former wife Eileen, of Quesnel, BC, have remained close friends.

Their son Mark lives in Kamloops with his wife Katti and their two children: Tania and Colin, Gilbert’s grandchildren.

The Gilberts’ daughter, Dolly, and her husband, Phil, live in Whitehorse.

He is also survived by longtime friend and companion Alma Robinson, of Whitehorse; sisters Joan and Louise, and brother Art, all of BC; numerous nieces and nephews; and hundreds of friends, far and wide.

In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested donations be made to the Canadian Cancer Society in George’s name.

The family also extends special thanks to the Intensive Care Unit staff and attending doctors at Whitehorse General Hospital and to Sharon Miller, for their thoughtfulness, professionalism and care in a difficult time.

A memorial gathering is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, February 22 at the High Country Inn.

Story contributed by the family. With reporting by Chris Oke.

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