2009 Yukon Nuggets
There’s something about long time Yukon families that remind me of that pleasant old song from the late forties. It was called Dear Hearts and Gentle People.
The Ryder family of Whitehorse were dear hearts - important members of Yukon society who contributed much to the vibrant life people enjoy in the territory today.
Lloyd Ryder was such a man. Born into a family of three boys and one girl, he lived a good life in the Yukon. His father George served with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the first world war where he managed to keep his sense of humour.
In a letter to his father sent from somewhere in France in February 1917, George Ryder wrote that he and his mates had been over the top of the trenches, through fields of frozen mud and into German trenches. George said they were quote - playing tag with Fritz with bayonets and bombs and - to quote George "we paid off a few debts we owed to Fritz."
In the same letter he thanked the ladies of the Yukon IODE for taking good care of the boys overseas with special parcels.
Back in the Yukon after the war, George started a family which included three sons - Lloyd, Howard and Gordon and a daughter Audrey. George also started an essential business called Ryder’s Fuel Service. The fuel was cord wood cut in the bushes near town and delivered first by horse drawn wagon and then by truck to houses like ours on Strickland Street that relied on wood for winter warmth.
I recall with mixed emotions, the arrival of the Ryder’s Wood truck. It meant the house would be warm, but it also meant I had a lot of chopping to do. Split cord wood was more expensive than uncut logs and money being tight - we bought logs.
George Ryder also served as Alderman on the first city council when Whitehorse became the capital of the Yukon in 1953. Meanwhile, his son Lloyd was making a name for himself in the flying business.
He began flying commercially in 1962 with Whitehorse Flying Service. It later became Yukon Flying Service, a bush plane operation which specialised in going places in the Yukon that were hard to get to.
Lloyd Ryder flew many a mining prospector to remote camps and made sure they were well supplied and safe in their isolated environment. You could count on Lloyd Ryder and his ski and float equipped aircraft.
US Senator Robert Kennedy counted on Lloyd Ryder to deliver him to the ten thousand foot level of a St. Elias Mountain he was about to climb. That was in March of 1965 when Lloyd made sure the world famous expedition to honour the late US President John F. Kennedy was safe and sound and had all the supplies they needed for the amazing mountain climbing feat.
He also took part in the miraculous air search for Ralph Flores and Helen Klaben who survived for 49 winter days after their plane crashed near Watson Lake in 1963. In 2007, Lloyd was awarded the 'Order of Polaris' Aviation Award for his significant contribution to northern aviation.
Lloyd Ryder served as President and of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. He also spent a lot of time and energy in helping raise the standard of living for Yukon seniors. Lloyd Ryder passed away at the age of 87.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.