Hundreds gather in Yellowknife for Laserich memorial

Yellowknife-based pilot Paul Laserich, one of the North's most well-known aviators, was honoured at an emotional memorial ceremony Thursday.

Tributes also to be paid to late aviator's mother, who also died this year

Hundreds gathered in Yellowknife to honour Paul Laserich and his mother, Margaret 2:23
Paul Laserich, the well-known general manager of Adlair Aviation Ltd., passed away in Yellowknife on Nov. 19. (Facebook)
Yellowknife-based pilot Paul Laserich, one of the North's most well-known aviators, was honoured at an emotional memorial ceremony Thursday.

Laserich, the general manager of the small family-owned airline Adlair Aviation Ltd., died from natural causes Nov. 19 in his Yellowknife home. He was 52.

Hundreds gathered for Thursday's tribute, which was held at 2 p.m. at the Adlair Air hangar in Yellowknife, to commemorate the pilot, as well as his mother, Margaret, who passed away in September.

The family requested that donations be made in the memories of Laserich and his mother to the Yellowknife Salvation Army, the Yellowknife Food Bank, and the Cambridge Bay Food Bank in lieu of flowers.

Son an 'ambassador for the North'

Laserich, an experienced aviator who grew up in Nunavut, took over Adlair's operations from his father, Willy Laserich, 28 years ago. The elder Laserich was known as a Northern legend and was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame last year.

Adlair’s fleet of about five planes is based in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where Paul Laserich grew up.

He was an avid fisherman who lived out his later years in Yellowknife, where his company’s administrative offices are based.

Laserich's sudden death shocked his sister, Joanne, who said the family was still devastated by his unexpected passing.

She said her brother will be remembered as a charismatic local character in Yellowknife who was known for his kindness and generosity, having sponsored a $5,000 scholarship to Aviation Career Development Program.

Friends at the memorial agreed that the man would be remembered for his gregarious nature, and for being an ambassador for the North. 

He was known for zipping around in his Cessna aircraft, or on the ground in his red convertible, and talking constantly.

"What can you say about a guy that knew everybody, and possessed a kindness and generosity most of us only dream about," said family friend Dan O'Neill. "Paul had an uncommon magnetism, a huge love of family, and the North."

Mother a matriarch of the aviation industry

Margaret Laserich was remembered as a matriarch of the aviation industry, one who added a touch of glamour to Cambridge Bay and supported her husband, Willy, throughout his career.

"She always had her make up on and her hair done up every night when my Grandpa came off the plane," said one relative, Michelle Gillis. "She always made sure there was a meal there for everyone." 

One of the mourners, Leona Aglukkaq, said Willy and Margaret Laserich flew her from Inuvik, N.W.T. to her adoptive family in Nunavut when she was an infant. 

Aglukkaq said Margaret was like a mother to many in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut, and her son Paul was a generous friend.

"For over 40 years you have not only been there for people in the Kitikmeot but you've become one of us. And for everyone in the Kitikmeot, I say thank you," she said.  

Aglukkaq added that the young Laserich was always always on the move.

"Out of nowhere, he'd just get up and leave unexpectedly. You'd say 'where's Paul?' So I think I speak for everyone here today when I say Paul made his exit the way he always did, quick and unexpected."