Celebrating the Life of Jane Gaffin – The Yukon’s Unofficial Mining Historian

I’m here in Whitehorse to join with the Yukon mining community in celebrating the life of Jane Gaffin. I’m especially grateful for Ron Berdahl (Prospector of the Year in 1997 I learned tonight!) for keeping me apprised of Jane’s health and ultimate passing. Were it not for Ron Berdahl I doubt I would have learned about her death for some time. Thank you Ron!

Ron also picked me up at the airport and delivered me to my hotel, right beside where he’d booked space for the celebration of Jane’s life. While I’ve only met him, he appears to be just like the rest of the Yukoners I’ve had the good fortune to know. Honest, decent and loving of liberty.

The room was packed and while I hoped more people would tell Jane stories to celebrate her eccentric self, the stories told were certainly interesting and typical Jane. The Premier of the Yukon showed up to pay his respects too, which I thought was very interesting. I’m not sure what Jane would of thought of a politician showing up at an event honouring her though!

Jane Gaffin passed away from lung cancer at the age of 73 even though she hadn’t smoked in many years. Paula Carlos commented that it seemed odd to her as she’d never seen Jane smoke. Then a fellow came up and shed a little light on Jane’s prior smoking career. He told of a small plane flight which Jane was aboard. She’d run out of matches or her lighter wouldn’t work and so the plane landed on the highway below where she stopped the first car that came by, asked for matches and hopped back into the plane.

That’s just the kind of gal she was. She wanted something she just went and got it and didn’t much care what steps were required. She just got the job done.

Walking the streets of downtown Whitehorse, the same streets Jane walked every day, was both fun and weird.  Walking down to "Red Square" to stand in front of the Yukon Prospector's Association statue, something I'd heard about dozens of times over the years, was awesome.  Seeing Jane Gaffin's name inscribed on the statue's Honour Roll was even more awesome.  Jane loved the prospectors, that's for sure.  She spent her life writing about them and helping them in their battle against Big Government.  This is also where I learned Ron Berdahl was Prospector of the Year in 1997.

Stumbling across the Whitehorse Star newspaper building was also fun.  That was where Jane got started in Whitehorse and she wrote endlessly for them over the years.  They've even published a thing or two from me over the years...

It was only by accident that my path crossed hers.  Were it not for overzealous government bureaucrats and and even more overzealous RCMP member going after her friend Allen Carlos we would never have collaborated on anything.  Jane wasn't a "gun girl".  She just happened to write about the gun issue because they attacked her friend.  In a way I'm glad they did, since that's how we came to know each other so well.

This weekend is also the biggest gun show of the year, run by “Canadian Access to Firearms” publisher Paul Rogan of course, and gun lawyer Richard Fritze flew in specifically for the event. When he landed at the airport he asked Paula Carlos where the heck Jane was and would she be in attendance? That was how he learned of Jane’s passing. Not the greatest start to his weekend, that’s for sure.

It was uncanny seeing him here too. I’ve met Richard before but it was about 10 years ago and I just wasn’t expecting to see him here. So I see this man who I clearly recognize and who clearly recognizes me but neither of us knew why or where from. It wasn’t until I sat down after speaking at the podium that Richard came and sat down beside me and held out his card. We both laughed and carried on, the missing piece of information now in place!

The highlight of the trip for me though truly is meeting “Canadian Access to Firearms” publisher Paul Rogan and Allen and Paula Carlos. Paul Rogan and I have attempted to meet numerous times over the years but timing has never worked out. Allen and Paula Carlos drove up the mountain to see me when they were passing through Lytton one time years ago but I was away working on some movie and didn’t learn they’d been so close until much later.

Spending time with all of them at dinner this evening after the celebration of Jane’s life was both awesome and cathartic. Paula would start telling some story and it would dawn on me I’d heard the story from Jane, or at least parts of it. Richard would tell some story from court and I'd finish it off for him.  Paul Rogan would carry on about something and all I could do was laugh at his stories.  Such a weird yet great feeling knowing so much of the history of these great and humble people and the stories of their lives without ever having met them in person.

I'm so grateful I made the trip.

Paul Rogan is everything I imagined he would be. Gregarious, filled with life and an immense sense of humor and an even bigger heart. Allen Carlos and I commented about how much history was packed into one man as Paul ranted on about this or that part of history that he and his family had lived through.

Allen Carlos is quiet and reserved and watches everyone.  His sense of humor is great and when he laughs he absolutely lights right up.  Get him talking about fast cars and you may be there a while!  His wife Paula is the outgoing one and with a couple of glasses of wine in her she really starts to shine.  Her retelling of how she demanded the four RMCP members who came to search her home remove their boots before searching the Carlos family home is utterly hilarious.  One of her proudest moments, to be sure, and absolutely one of the best stories I've ever heard!

Whitehorse itself is more beautiful than I would ever have imagined. How much of that perception is due to the people I’ve met here is anyone’s guess. They’re great people and it’s truly an honour to finally meet them in person.

More to come…  I'm watching the sun still setting at midnight and need to send a few more thoughts Jane's way...

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