Dave Muir, a dedicated City of Whitehorse employee whose quick wit, loyalty and leadership skills earned him respect from everyone he worked with, passed away from cancer on Monday. He was 54.
Muir’s sense of humour and dedication to his work are what most people bring up first when talking about him.
“He hated missing any event that recognized his staff,” said Linda Rapp, Whitehorse’s director of community and recreation services.
Rapp, who is in her thirty-second year with the City, knew Muir for over 20 years.
“Whether it was a Christmas party or the long service awards, he really treasured those opportunities. He took a lot of pride in both his and his staff’s contribution to the community.”
Muir was a longtime union activist with the Yukon Employees’ Union before moving on to the City of Whitehorse in the early 1990s, where he held several positions throughout the years.
He was a parks lead hand before becoming the city’s transit manager, the public works manager, the operations manager and finally acting director of corporate services.
Rapp said Muir’s ability to come up with one-liners and defuse tense situations was unmatched.
“He never had to think about them,” she said.
“Even in nasty circumstances he’d always find a way to lighten the mood.”
Rapp said that even after Muir had been diagnosed with cancer, he kept his spirits up.
One day, when a group of his colleagues went to visit him in the hospital, they reminisced about starting out at the City.
Some of them worked in the parks department, maintaining the cemeteries in town.
“Yep – that’s where we started, and that’s where we all end,” Muir joked.
Muir was also a talented musician with a great voice. In the 1980s, his song “Somewhere Cries the Wolf” hit the airwaves in Whitehorse.
Rapp said Muir was often among the last to leave Christmas parties because he’d end up playing the guitar and singing.
“He had a great voice,” she said. “It’s a big loss to us.”
Mayor Dan Curtis, who also knew Muir for over 20 years, said he’d never met anyone more humble.
Despite undergoing chemotherapy, he wanted to help City Manager Christine Smith as she completed the hiring process for a new director of infrastructure and operations, he said.
“He touched people in every single department in this city,” Curtis said, “and I don’t think you can say that about anyone else.”
“We all aspire to having half the (amount of) people who loved him.”
Smith said she felt privileged to have worked closely with Muir, especially on the City’s building consolidation project.
Last year, she appointed him as acting director of infrastructure and operations based on the work he’d completed on that project.
“Dave was skilled, a natural negotiator, a problem solver and a really authentic person,” she said.
“He was extremely supportive of me and the new approach I brought to the city, and I’ll never forget that.”
One of six siblings, Muir was born in Muirhead, a small suburb of Glasgow, Scotland.
In February 1967, when he was six years old, his family moved to Hamilton, Ont. where he grew up.
It was the late 1980s when he moved to Whitehorse.
Ashley Muir, one of Dave’s nieces, said she remembers her uncle as someone who always made her feel comfortable.
About five or six years ago, the family gathered in Ontario for a huge picnic and a football game, she said.
Someone brought an old, leather Hamilton Tiger Cats football helmet, which Muir ended up wearing.
A few years later Ashley went up to Whitehorse for a family wedding and her uncle pulled the helmet out while they were partying at his house.
“It was pretty hilarious,” she said.
Muir was also particularly proud of his Scottish heritage.
During a trip to Mexico for a family wedding four years ago, Muir brought a towel that looked exactly like a kilt, Ashley said.
Another niece, Caila, said she couldn’t go anywhere in Whitehorse without someone coming up to her uncle to shake his hand.
When she visited Whitehorse last summer, Muir brought her to the Klondike Rib & Salmon for supper one night.
“Once we sat down every waitress walked over and said hello, and told him how happy they were to see him,” she wrote in an e-mail.
He found out he only had a few weeks left on Feb. 6. Two days later, over 20 people had flown to Whitehorse from all over the world – and as far away as Scotland – to see him.
“To see the kind of love and impact he’s had on people in his life was incredible,” she said.
One of Muir’s best friends, Dean Philpott, traveled from Nanaimo, B.C. to see his friend.
Philpott talked about being new to Whitehorse about 25 years ago and instantly bonding with Muir during recreational hockey games in Porter Creek.
As the years went by the friends grew closer and closer. Their families spent holidays together and they discovered Alaska on their boat, Empty Pockets.
“Dave really brought out the best in me whenever we were together,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Philpott and Muir often went to the Dawson City Music Festival together. The last time was in 2012.
“I woke up on the Saturday morning with my nipple pierced, and Dave looked over at me and smiled,” Philpott said.
“Yep, we did it again Deano. PS, you owe me 200 bucks.”
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