North

Yukon town's hearse to be auctioned off: Some prefer pickups anyway

The decades-old hearse owned by Town of Watson Lake, Yukon, is going to be auctioned off next spring.

Watson Lake's hearse predates the town's incorporation

The Watson Lake town hearse is in a cold storage building. (Town of Watson Lake)

The decades-old hearse owned by the Town of Watson Lake, Yukon, is going to be auctioned off next spring.

"It's amazing the amount of interest that's already been brought forward to the community," said Cam Lockwood, the town's chief administrative officer.

"We've had people talk about converting it into a camper and some others using it just as a collector's item."

The hearse was inherited by the town when it was incorporated in 1984, and it was used by locals beforehand.

It has been out of service for about two years due to mechanical issues, and the town has decided not to revive it.

"It was a budgetary thing for the community, and the fact that it wasn't being used as much as would justify the amount of money [needed] to put it back to use," Lockwood said in an interview Tuesday.

Resident fundraised for hearse

The late Mary McCulloch, a former justice of the peace, spearheaded a fundraiser for the hearse because she thought it wasn't appropriate for the dead to be transported by ambulance, he said.

There isn't a lot more information on the hearse and its origins, in part, because the town's office, which contained records, was destroyed by a fire in 1996, Lockwood said.

According to a 1990 town policy record, the vehicle is a 1972 Pontiac that was "purchased by donations from the town and the community at large."

The hearse, which had to be used within the town's boundaries, could be used for free with 24 hours notice for the funeral of someone who lived in the town.

Funerals for non-residents had a $50 charge.

A town employee had to drive the hearse. The vehicle and its associated costs, cost the town "a few thousand dollars a year," Lockwood said.

For now, the hearse is staying in a cold storage building in town.

"Most communities in the North don't have a hearse, so Watson Lake was sort of an anomaly in that aspect," Lockwood said.

Currently, Watson Lake residents use the services of a funeral home in Whitehorse, a van from a local First Nation, or a van from a local church, he said.

"Other families choose to use their pickup truck. It's a preference thing," Lockwood said.

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