People who live in Yellowknife's Woodyard neighbourhood are mourning the loss of a fixture in the community this week: Greg "Cominco" Loftus.

Loftus, who was known as a "character" in those parts, died earlier this week at the age of 59.

Larry Galt first met his friend when Loftus arrived in Yellowknife as a 15-year-old "snot nosed kid" in the 1970s.

"He wanted to see the world," Galt recalled this week.

He said Loftus travelled the globe, always learning from the people in the places he visited — whether he was diving in Africa or working at a cattle station in Australia.

Greg 'Cominco' Loftus

Loftus arrived in Yellowknife in the 1970s to 'see the world,' according to his friend. (submitted by Amanda Mallon)

Loftus "was not afraid of a beer," his friend laughed. He was often found at Harley's Hard Rock Saloon.

"He was a people person," Galt says.

But he quickly qualifies that.

"He enjoys people, he enjoyed seeing how people lived.

"He could be grumpy and he had quite a temper," Galt laughed.

The curmudgeon

Becky Davis remembers when she first moved to the Woodyard — a community of shacks in Yellowknife's Old Town — and received a cord of wood. She said Loftus regularly walked by and saw her struggling to chop the pile.

"He kinda chuckled and walked away or muttered something under his breath about me," Davis remembered.

Finally, fed up, she challenged him to show her how to do it right.

"And he did!" she said.

"After that, that kind of broke the ice and we were kind of friendly neighbours."

Amanda Mallon and Greg Loftus

Greg Loftus surrounded by friends, including Amanda Mallon (left), who says, 'We always had a pretty strong respect for each other.' (Bob Wilson)

Amanda Mallon wasn't so understanding when Loftus got "grouchy" with her one day years ago.

A group of friends were on the land and having trouble with a boat.

"The rest of us, there was a lot of joking and laughing," she said. "Cominco was just growling and barking and snapping."

Finally, at wits end, Mallon slapped him across the face and told him to lighten up.

"I think that that particular incident really cemented our friendship. We always had a pretty strong respect for each other. And he never really did get too grouchy with me 'cause I would lift up my eyebrow and he'd go, 'Oh yeah, OK.'"

The advocate

In 1997 Loftus underwent a double kidney transplant. According to Galt, his friend was only on the transplant list for eight days.

"It gave him gratitude for life and he really started expressing that. He was extremely grateful for the kidneys," Galt said.

Loftus also became an advocate for organ donations — paddling and biking huge distances to raise awareness.

Greg 'Cominco' Loftus with dogs

Loftus with his dogs in Yellowknife. (submitted by Amanda Mallon)

But in the end, it was a double lung transplant that Loftus needed, after he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis — a respiratory disease that means scarring of the lungs — about four years ago.

"He never gave up," Galt said, but he added that Loftus was clear about his wishes.

"He said, 'OK, but the second my body is not good for transplant then we pull the plug and that's it.' And we respected his wishes."

Galt was with his friend of 40 years when he died.

"We said our goodbyes. Not often you get to do that to a good bud," he said.

"He lived his life to the fullest. That's what you see in a person before you can put it into words. A person that can stay the course.

"He can piss you off but he always stayed the course."

with files from Joanne Stassen, Loren McGinnis