March 10, 2021
1948-2021 ~ Archibald Donald Lang was born near Dawson Creek to Hector and Margaret (Campbell) Lang in 1948, minutes before his twin brother Daniel. In 1958, Hector found work as a carpenter building the fish ladder in Whitehorse, so he and Marg moved the twins and their older sisters to the territory in a 14-foot trailer. Archie would live in the Yukon for the rest of his life.
In 1967, Archie graduated from F.H. Collins. While the nature of his grades has been lost to the fog of history, we do know that he was elected president of his class by popular acclaim. After completing a carpentry apprenticeship, Archie plied his trade throughout the Yukon, primarily at mine sites, before concluding (as good friend Sandy Grunow observed), that physical effort should be confined to the jaw.
In his early twenties, Archie heeded the call of entrepreneurship, trying his hand at gastronomy (the Macrae restaurant), haberdashery (the future Sandors, and a good story) and inn keeping (the Caribou Hotel). At 25, he made the pivotal decision to purchase the Watson Lake Hotel. Over the next 25 years, Archie established himself as a renowned proprietor, with “the Watson” being the sought-after destination of the finest clientele one could find in southeast Yukon.
It was in Watson Lake that Archie met the love of his life, Karen (Grzebinski) Lang. On August 5, 1976, they eloped to the Upper Liard Catholic Church (coincidentally, just two days before Karen’s mother arrived to investigate her oldest daughter’s living situation). Karen and Archie would make Watson Lake their home, working together to, at first, just keep the heat on, and then to expand their endeavors to include the grocery store, gas station and an outfitting concession. Watson Lake was a special place for Archie and Karen, where they made life-long friends and memories.
In 1978, Archie and Karen welcomed a son, Graham, soon followed by a daughter, Meagan. Fraser, the youngest, came in 1985.
In 1994, Archie and Karen moved to Whitehorse to operate the Super A grocery stores and also took over the Capital Hotel and Sgt. Preston’s motel in Skagway. Archie would eventually operate grocery stores across Northern BC, the Yukon and the NWT, from Dease Lake to Old Crow. Wherever he went, Archie was a generous contributor to his community, in ways big and small, private and public. He believed strongly in the worth and ability of every person, and always sought to lift people up and cheer them on.
In 2002, Archie sold the stores and turned his love of community to the political arena. He successfully ran as a candidate for Porter Creek Center and served as a minister of several portfolios during his two terms in office, with his long-time friend Dennis Fentie at the helm as premier. Archie enjoyed the job, as Archie liked people (and people liked Archie).
Archie retired from politics in 2011 and got back into the grocery game in Whitehorse, purchasing Porter Creek Super A. He enjoyed the business, as it involved a constant flow of people that gave him a rotating audience for his stories. Archie never knew a stranger.
Archie passed away peacefully on March 10, 2021, after a short fight with cancer, surrounded by his wife and children. The family is grateful for the excellent care provided by Dr. Secerbegovic, Dr. Bell and Dr. Stuart, as well as Ardes Ng, RN Supervisor and her team at Wind River Hospice.
Prior to his passing, Archie shared a story of his early days in Watson Lake. He and Karen had hosted a summer event at the Watson Lake Hotel. At closing time, the party moved to Lucky Lake, where Archie had set up a piano on a floating raft. The piano played and the party continued on that beach until the morning, at which point the revelers relocated back to the hotel for breakfast. We’d like to believe that Archie is in a better place, and that place is on the sand at Lucky Lake under the midnight sun, with the piano playing and breakfast on the horizon.
Archie is survived by his wife, Karen, his sisters, Mary and Heather, his brother, Daniel (Val), many nieces and nephews, his sons, Graham (Kim) and Fraser (Paola), his daughter, Meagan (Kevin), and his exceptional grandchildren, June, Simon and Margaret.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.Obituary
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