North

'Northern icon': Yellowknife remembers Les Rocher

Legendary Yellowknife real estate and property developer Les Rocher is being remembered as a 'northern icon.' Over his decades in the North, Rocher owned swathes of land and property across Yellowknife: shacks and cabins in the city’s Old Town, a modular home subdivision on Kam Lake, and several downtown buildings.

Rocher died Thursday at the age of 63

Les Rocher is being remembered for his work ethic and willingness to help those who needed it. Rocher died Thursday at the age of 63. (Pat Kane)

Legendary Yellowknife real estate and property developer Les Rocher is being remembered as "northern icon." 

Rocher died Thursday just two days after his 63rd birthday. 

Over his decades in the North, Rocher owned swathes of land and property across Yellowknife: shacks and cabins in the city's Old Town neighbourhood, a modular-home subdivision on Kam Lake, several downtown buildings and even a few old barges. 

In a Facebook post, N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane described Rocher as a "northern icon" who will be remembered by many for his work ethic, no-nonsense attitude and his drives around town with his little dog sitting in the front seat.

Premier Caroline Cochrane said Rocher will be remembered for his role in the development of the city as well as his drives around town with his little dog by his side. (Pat Kane)

"Those closest to him, they would tell you he was a little rough around the edges, but had a kind heart and was always willing to lend a hand," Cochrane wrote.

In the 1950s, Rocher's parents opened Quality Furniture and he helped them expand the store a few decades later. From there, he went on to open a second hand store called "Les' Second Hand Swap Shop." 

'Got things done in his own style'

"Les was a phenomenal individual that contributed to development of Yellowknife, the fabric of the community of Yellowknife, for his time here in the 60 plus years," said Kevin Hodgins, a friend and colleague of 30 years.

"He was a real character and got things done in his own style."

Hodgins said as a developer, Rocher pushed hard to accomplish the things he believed were necessary or that met his own objectives "and he generally achieved them."

"He did so at times by being very persuasive and tactful I guess, in some ways, and working around some of the systems and bureaucracy that we all have created for ourselves in our modern world."

Hodgins estimated that Rocher helped build about 1,000 houses over three decades.

Peter Pagonis Jr. worked for Rocher and knew him since childhood. "He was always firing up some little business," said Pagonis. "He was always a wheeler and dealer, Les."

He was always a wheeler and dealer, Les.- Peter Pagonis Jr., former employee of Les Rocher

Pagonis said Rocher's father was much the same. "They were always making a buck some how selling fish or moving buildings or always something."

Rocher was shrewd, but also generous, said Pagonis.

"He helped a lot of people financially with jobs, housing, he was just an all-around good guy, but he didn't mess around at work, he wanted some production."

Rocher was also known as a philanthropist who contributed to causes and charities including the Yellowknife's Artist Run Community Centre, once donating an old church he owned in downtown Yellowknife to the centre for use as an office and for events. 

Yellowknife's McKenna Funeral Home says information on a service for Rocher will be announced at a later date. 

Corrections

  • This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Kevin Hodgins' last name.
    Apr 28, 2020 5:43 PM CT

With files from Loren McGinnis

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