February 18, 1958 – July 25, 2018
Len Orvis Row chose to “Die with Dignity” on a sunny summer day surrounded by friends and the exceptional medical staff at Whitehorse General Hospital. The number of loving friends who visited Len at home and in the hospital over the last two months was a testament to the affection, admiration and high esteem that people had for them. Len also took advantage of the move to explore their identity, which was lesbian at the time.
Named Helen Row at birth, they decided in 2015 to gender retire, Helen became Len and chose “they” and “them” for personal pronouns. This was an important lifetime milestone for them. Born in Montreal to Judith Orvis White and Robert K. Row, Len was an accomplished athlete. Len moved to western Canada in the early 1980s, living in Vancouver BC for 26 years before moving to the Yukon 8 years ago.
They pursued occupations in outdoor leadership, tree planting, landscaping and horticulture, and later in life trained as a Health Care Assistant, working in care homes in Whitehorse. Len loved being in the outdoors. Their backcountry skiing expertise was extensive. They worked on ski and avalanche patrol at several ski areas including Cypress and Manning Park in BC and often led trips. They also spent several summers teaching and guiding kayak groups on the BC coast through Ecomarine, a Vancouver-based company.
Len’s sharp and accurate social analysis, full of wit and creative expression, was entertaining and provided engaging dialogue as well as deep, full-hearted laughter. Len’s compassion for other peoples’ life difficulties was seen in action and felt in the help they provided. Their volunteer work was important to the Queer community, allies and All Genders Yukon. They also served on the Board of Directors of the Yukon Queer Alliance Film Festival in Whitehorse. Len even drove the Queer Yukon truck that headed up the yearly Parade in Whitehorse, always dressed in costume.
Len’s surviving family includes: Victoria Row of Calgary AB, Stephen (Patricia) Row and their children Jessica and Andrew of New Hamburg ON, and Cynthia Row, also of Calgary. Spark, Len’s dog, was by their side throughout the past two years and has now gone to live with a friend in ON.
Among Len’s greatest gifts to their friends were the courage and equanimity with which they faced their death from cancer. Donations in honour of Len can be made to the Whitehorse charities: Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Blood Ties Four Directions Centre and the Food Bank Society of Whitehorse.
For more life stories of Len, go to www.queeryukon.com.