The hearse carrying Zivojin Jonanovic proceeds along Mackenzie Road in Inuvik, N.W.T., on Friday afternoon. ((Chris Harbord/CBC))

Taxi drivers in Invuik, N.W.T., drove in a solemn procession along the Arctic town's main street Friday in a fitting tribute to long-time cabbie Zivojin Jonanovic, a local fixture who died this week.

Jonanovic died in hospital in Inuvik on Tuesday, suffering from a series of health problems, including diabetes and heart trouble. He was 74.

Hundreds of residents in the town of 3,500 lined Mackenzie Road at 3 p.m. MT Friday, as dozens of vehicles — led by the hearse carrying Jonanovic's casket — drove slowly from his funeral to the grave site.

"He's got three names, right? They call him John, they call him Crazy John, and the other name that he was called was Cadillac," Nelson Dicks, Jonanovic's friend of about 10 years, told CBC News.

Jonanovic drove a taxi for most of the 38 years he lived in Inuvik. People in the community recognized the several classic Cadillacs he owned and drove around town, including one that he used as his cab.

"He felt it was a nice, comfortable, stable ride on the highway," Dicks said.

"Everybody knows him for the Cadillac."

But Dicks added that Jonanovic was also known for his personality.

"He was always honest and straight-up," he said. "I wouldn't think that he has one enemy in the North."


Dozens of cars, including taxis, drive in a solemn procession following Jonanovic's funeral Friday. ((Chris Harbord/CBC))

Residents also knew Jonanovic for his generosity, often giving people free rides if they did not have enough money to meet the $5 cab fare.

In a Feb. 28 interview with CBC News, Jonanovic said he loved to drive cabs because of the people he met.

"Nice people, no? Good [to] talk to people, and nice stories. And you know, [taxis] in Inuvik make people happy," he said.

Born in Yugoslavia, Jonanovic said he moved to Inuvik to open a mechanic shop that serviced taxis. But as he grew older, he said he came to prefer driving taxis over working on them.

Jonanovic had open-heart surgery in December. But when his health problems caught up to him last week, friends said he took a taxi for his final ride to the hospital.

Following Jonanovic's death, Dicks said he inherited a symbol of his friend: "The keys to the Cadillac was left with me. I'll have his keys as a souvenir."