Esther Braden, a pillar of the community of Yellowknife for more than half a century, died Thursday morning at the age of 92. 

Braden, who moved to the North from Saskatchewan in 1964, was a lifetime volunteer and former president of the Yellowknife YWCA, where she expanded its services by helping to found a shelter for women who are victims of family violence.

Esther Braden order of Canada

In 2006, Braden poses with Governor General Michaƫlle Jean while being inducted into the Order of Canada. (CBC)

She is perhaps most well-known for her work as an advocate for women, seniors and the hard of hearing, establishing the territory's first seniors' information line and volunteering at Yellowknife's Aven Manor seniors home. In 2006, she was made a member of the Order of Canada.

"She was one of those remarkable people who come in and without asking or thinking or checking into it, just roll up their sleeves and get in there to start building a community, building a caring community," said Bill Braden, one of Esther's five children. 

"She was connected with so many organizations, especially to do with seniors. And this is, I think, where she will have such a lasting legacy in the N.W.T., is her advocacy for seniors."

'They were the heart of the city'

Bill Braden said his mother was part of a small group of women who helped build Yellowknife's community as it became the territory's capital. That group also included Barb Bromley, a good friend of Esther Braden's, who died one year ago.

"There was a team of women in Yellowknife, they were the heart of the city," he said. "Maybe the men were out there building the mines and the roads, but the women built the community."

Barb Bromley and Esther Braden

Esther Braden, left, and Barb Bromley attended Holy Trinity Anglican Church together, and were both active community volunteers, as well as friends for more than 50 years. Esther's son, Bill Braden, said that the two, along with other women, 'built the community' of Yellowknife. (Submitted by Sandra Dehnke)

Esther was also musically gifted, said Bill, and sang for the city's seniors and people in the hospital's extended care ward. 

"Some of those genes certainly got passed on," he said, referring to Esther's son Pat, a well-known Northern musician; as well as granddaughter Carmen, a musician and composer.

"Music was just about everything in her life at some point or another. Music was a source of her strength and her sharing."

Esther is survived by four children and eight grandchildren. She was predeceased by her son George Braden, the first government leader of the Northwest Territories, and her husband Bill Sr. 

Bill said the Braden family is grateful for Esther's treatment near the end of her life from Stanton Hospital and Avens, calling it "part of the legacy that she wants everybody to continue.

"Look out for the seniors, the generation we're in now," he said. "There's going to be more and more of it. We need the care that she was so lucky to get. So that's part of her legacy and her memory, too."