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Yukon remembers former commissioner Doug Bell

Bell passed away in Whitehorse on Sunday, at the age of 94.
Doug Bell photographed in Whitehorse in 2008, for an article about his role as Yukon Commissioner in the early 1980’s. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Former Yukon commissioner and Yukon News publisher Doug Bell has died at the age of 94.

Bell died April 18 at Whistle Bend Place in Whitehorse, after a lifetime spent serving the territory. He was predeceased by his wife Pearl and his eldest son Bernie, and will be missed by his surviving family.

“He made a lot of friends,” said Keith Halliday, who worked alongside Bell on the board of the MacBride Museum.

“He really had the gift of the gab, despite his story about being tongue-tied when he first met his wife Pearl,” said Halliday. “He always had a story or a joke to share.”

Originally from Saskatchewan, Bell joined the Royal Canadian Air Force before he graduated from high school. In the Air Force he developed an interest in radio operation and became a wireless air gunner.

Bell and Pearl moved to the Yukon in the 1970s, following his job as telecommunications manager in Whitehorse.

In 1976 he was elected to city council and became commissioner in 1980, leading the territory during the transition to ‘responsible government.’ At the time, the role was similar to the premier, and Bell was responsible for representing the Yukon.

Remembered as a storyteller and enthusiast of both photography and writing, Bell later became publisher of the Yukon News in 1986. He ran a weekly column called “Rambling.”

After retirement, he continued to serve the Yukon as a volunteer with various boards and the Legion. Bell was a recipient of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Yukon.

Condolences poured in for the former commissioner following the news of his death.

“Doug was a wonderful and very colourful Yukon character that will be missed by all. My condolences go out to his family,” said MP Larry Bagnell, who co-chaired the Robert Service Society alongside Bell.

“Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Doug Bell will remember a family man who dearly loved his late wife Pearl and took great joy in serving his community,” said Premier Sandy Silver, in a statement.

“Doug will be remembered fondly by family and the many friends he made throughout his long and productive life. His legacy lives on in the work he did, but also in the way he approached life,” Silver said.

The flags at the Yukon government building and Taylor House will be flown at half-mast from April 19 to April 26 with City of Whitehorse flags flown at half-mast until April 23.

Contact Haley Ritchie at