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Signing off for the final time

Rick Lepage will fly off into the sunset from Rankin Inlet one final time this coming month, when he caps his stay at Rankin Inlet to end a 40-year career with Nav Canada.
Rick Lepage spends some time with Grade 5 students, showing them the radio receivers and digital recording machines at the flight services station in Rankin Inlet in 2017. Photo courtesy Rick Lepage

Rick Lepage will fly off into the sunset from Rankin Inlet one final time this month, when he caps his stay at Rankin Inlet to end a 40-year career with Nav Canada.

About half those years were spent in the North.

Lepage, 65, ends his career as the supervisor of the Rankin Inlet flight services station.

His lengthy career took him to Montreal; Dorval; Cornwall, Ont., (twice); the Magdalen Islands; Churchill, Man.; Baker Lake; New Brunswick; Sydney, N.S.; and Charlottetown, P.E.I. before finally landing in Rankin Inlet in 2017.

In 2007, Lepage won a competition to become the team supervisor in Rankin Inlet. With their kids (daughter Amanda McNally, 39, and son, Scott, 37) all grown, Lepage and his wife, Kim, took the opportunity to come back to the North.

“We said we’d stay a couple of years, and then a couple of years turned into a couple more, and then a couple more – and it just got to the point where I was so far along in my career I didn’t really want to go down to another unit, re-qualify and then retire and have to move again,” said Rick.

“We were going to retire a couple of years ago but our granddaughter came down with a brain tumour, so we decided to stay, work and provide financial and moral support to my son and his wife, while our granddaughter was going through this.”

Rick said the blessing for him early in his career while he was at the National Transport Canada Training Institute turned out to be where he met his wife.

He said this past April 2, he and Kim were married 40 years. Kim, up until two years ago, was the base manager for Keewatin (Kivalliq) Air during their time in Rankin Inlet.

“Our son, Scott, actually spent three or four years in Rankin with us and the interesting thing about that was he met his wife, Lisa, up here,” said Rick.

“His wife’s mother was working for Keewatin Air with Kim at the time and her daughter came up for a visit. My wife asked my son to show her around town during his off time and the rest is history.”

Rick said when he leaves Rankin, what he will take with him is the friendships he made during his 16 years in the community.

He said the people in Rankin have shown incredible kindness and greet you openly, wanting to know who you are and where you’re from.

“It’s not in a way that’s confrontational or anything like that. It’s like, ‘Hey who are you? Where are you from and why are you here? Do you like fish? Can I get you some char? Do you hunt? If not, I can bring you some caribou.

“They’re always sharing, always giving. Even when they have next to nothing, they’re always wanting to share stuff with you and, I think, that makes you a better person wanting to share.

“For a couple of years I got involved in coaching the high school basketball team and that was a lot of fun. And the people here in the curling club were so much fun and great to know.

“Getting out on the land in being in the middle of a caribou herd was just so cool. Going out to Marble Island and being in the community hall when the Governor General came in to visit, these are experiences that you can never forget.”

Originally from Ottawa, Lepage said living in a small town was a nice change from living in the hustle and bustle of the city.

“Once we leave, I’ll miss the people here the most and talking to the planes as they’re going in and out. Rankin, really, is like any small community. People, you know, get up and go to work and grab their children.

“One of the sweetest things you can ever see is the love the Inuit people have for their children. From the parents all the way up to the great-grandparents.

“I would have to say that life here is slower than the south and you get time to appreciate things. And you learn to respect weather way more than you did living in your big city, with the city trucks that came down and plow your road every half hour.

“Here, they keep the roads open in the middle of a blizzard. They can barely see in front of themselves and there they are, out making sure the roads are open enough that people can get to and from the grocery store and to the airport if, God forbid, an emergency medical evacuation is needed.

“It’s simply a great town full of wonderful people.”