'He marched to the beat of his own drum': Fort Simpson celebrates life of hard-working artist

A gathering will be held in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., this afternoon to celebrate the life of musician and businessman Lindsay 'Kiwi' Waugh, who died Oct. 9 at 73 years old.

Lindsay 'Kiwi' Waugh died on Oct. 9 at age 73

Lindsay Waugh, known to many by the nickname "Kiwi," was born and raised in New Zealand but made Fort Simpson his home for more than 40 years. He died Oct. 9 at the age of 73. (Submitted by Tracy Waugh Antoine)

A gathering will be held in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the life of musician and businessman Lindsay "Kiwi" Waugh, who died Oct. 9 at the age of 73.

Waugh made his way from New Zealand to northern Canada in the early 1970s. He first lived in Mayo, Yukon, where he met his wife, Patsy. The two settled in Fort Simpson in 1977, where they raised four children and became respected members of the community. 

He was an electrician and a musician who led by example through his life. His daughter, Tracy Waugh Antoine, says her father's strong work ethic made him the person he was. 

"He was a really hard worker," she said.

"He had Kiwi Electric that he opened in 1978, and he kept Kiwi Electric running right up until his passing. Like, we were in the hospital with him and he was still dealing with phone calls, dealing with his business."

Waugh was also a founding member of the Open Sky Society, a local arts organization that puts on an annual summer festival.

While staff turnover contributed to the Open Sky Festival not running this past July, a scaled-down version of the event was held in late September.

And despite his ongoing battle with cancer, Waugh was there to perform.

"I have a video that we're going to play during the service [Wednesday] of the last song he played at the Open Sky Festival, and at the end of it he's talking about how much he appreciated having lived in Fort Simpson and having raised us, raised his family in the Deh Cho," said Waugh Antoine.   

Lindsay Waugh loved to play blues music, and didn't give into pressure to play more popular country music. His backyard studio in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., had an open-door policy to musicians and artists. (NWT Arts)

"It's pretty amazing to think about, that there's this one individual from another country, New Zealand, who would make his way all the way up here," said artist and storyteller Dëneze Nakehk'o, who grew up in Fort Simpson with Tracy.

Waugh loved to play blues music. He recorded three albums, with songs including the Deh Cho Boogie.

"He did sort of march to the beat of his own drum," said Waugh Antoine. "He didn't ever fall into the idea of, 'Well, I need to play country music because that's what people like." 

He built a recording studio across a bridge in his backyard, where he would host anyone who wanted to play music or talk about the arts and how to express themselves creatively. 

He was an early supporter of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre's (NACC) push to bring shows to communities outside of Yellowknife, and ran sound and lights for nearly every performance in Fort Simpson.

"He was just a gem," said Marie Coderre, executive and artistic director of NACC. "Kiwi made a huge difference in the Northwest Territories, and those types of humans are outstanding."

Nakehk'o was in Fort Simpson earlier this week to perform with NACC's presentation of the dance production Not Quite Midnight

Public events are often cancelled in the North following the passing of a prominent community member, which NACC says it considered in this case. However, it decided instead to honour Waugh by going on with the show and donating proceeds from the door to his family.

The celebration of life for Lindsay Waugh will be held at the Fort Simpson Recreation Centre at 2 p.m. Wednesday.