The community of Baker Lake is mourning the loss of one of its brightest lights whose life candle was softly extinguished long before its time in the community earlier this month.
John Ray Mariq, 33, passed away on Feb. 1 due to heart complications.
Mariq was a talented and decorated multisport athlete in his youth, having competed in two Arctic Winter Games, the Canada Winter Games, two National U19 Field Lacrosse championships with Team Nunavut, as well as numerous regional and territorial events.
He also represented Nunavut at a number of national events as a respected youth delegate.
Mariq’s mom, Jenny Mariq, said her son always loved sports.
She said he was a happy guy as a little fellow who could always be found hanging out with his close circle of friends.
“They were always together, right to the 10 p.m. curfew time,” said Jenny.
“He finally told us after he graduated that right from kindergarten to Grade 12 he had been bullied in school.
“We never knew because he never told us.
“We were so shocked when he told us. I asked him why he never told me during all those years, and he just said it was OK. He was still here and he had graduated.
“I didn’t know what to say. He never showed much discouragement and had his friends around him all the time. I’ll never know why, but he never complained and he never told us.”
Jenny said John Ray loved to play badminton and lacrosse and his love for those sports may have been one of the reasons he was able bloom so well despite being bullied at school.
She said there was a time she worried those around him were pushing him a bit too hard to succeed at different sports.
“I was like, ‘Aren’t you guys being kind of hard on him?’ I was almost crying because I’m the mom and he was only nine or 10 years old.
“But he was into sports for most of his life and really loved to play.”
Jenny said John Ray was successful in his professional life after high school, going to Morrisburg, Ont., for heavy-equipment training before gaining both training and employment for about 13 years at the Meadowbank gold mine through Agnico Eagle Mines and Groupe Sana – Groupe Gilbert (Qamanittuaq Sana) before the pandemic hit.
She said he was working for the Hamlet of Baker Lake as a heavy-equipment operator at the time of his passing.
“He never really spoke to us too much about his life at work, but we found out shortly after his death that he was actually a shift supervisor at the mine.
“We were like, ‘Oh man,’ because we didn’t know he had climbed that high.
“I also found out that the company really liked how he operated the machinery, so he was given a chance to teach some French guys who had to come up and do some training on the equipment.”
Jenny said above everything else, John Ray was a family man who loved his son (Kayden Tootoo) and his family.
She said his family was always her son’s priority.
“When his father would want to go fishing, he’d take him out no matter how tired he was. He’d take both of us out fishing and boating.
“No matter how hard he had it, here and there like everybody else, he weathered the storm and overcame the obstacles.
“He died a natural death. He wasn’t one to contemplate suicide or stuff like that.
“In fact, I know he had helped others who were contemplating suicide. I thank all his friends, his father (Alex), Karen Duvall and Brad Mainse for always being there to guide him.”
Mainse said it’s no secret he and John Ray spent thousands of hours together between badminton, lacrosse and travel.
He said John Ray will be remembered as an elite class Nunavummiut youth athlete and a role model for many across the territory.
“A couple of thoughts and memories really stand out for those who knew John Ray,” said Mainse.
“He always had great respect for others in sport and competition, and he always showed great sportsmanship in competition.
“He never complained and had a never-quit, never-give-up attitude. John Ray always showed great composure and never lost his temper in sport. He was always dedicated to training and never missed a practice.
“Rest in peace, my friend.”