David Neufeld & Joy Waters
Joy arrived from Scotland as a baby and grew up in Toronto with her sister Jane. David’s early life was spent playing with his gang of three brothers Peter, Jeffrey and Richard, and their friends in the tree-lined streets of Winnipeg. Their paths crossed on a summer works program, and they married in the summer of 1975. Over the next several years, they moved from city to city in support of each other’s school and work opportunities. Joy earned a Masters in Social Work and David a Masters in History. They also found time to produce and raise two children, Erin and Andrew.
Their love of the North was kickstarted when David accepted the position of Western Arctic Historian with Parks Canada. He first convinced Parks to relocate the position from Winnipeg to Whitehorse and then convinced Joy to move with him in 1990 with their young children in tow. Their commitment and contributions to Yukon life have been many – they were strong supporters of the arts community, sat on many boards and committees of Yukon College, and actively supported many health and social justice initiatives.
Joy was a consummate civil servant, known for her integrity and high ethical standards, discipline, calm in the face of storms, and humility. She was the first and, perhaps only, DM of Tourism, to familiarize herself with the Department by doing shifts at Visitor Centres rather than relying on briefing notes! Joy was held in high regard by colleagues and staff alike – she was approachable, generous of her time and expertise, and well-loved. She rose through the ranks of the Government of Yukon from the Director of Community and Correctional Services to the President of Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board with stops in Tourism and Environment along the way.
In contrast, David’s free spirit was not always an easy fit with the demands and expectations of the federal civil service. David’s boundless curiosity and the love of storytelling nurtured by his Ukrainian Grozsma (grandmother) found expression in his work as a historian. David was a storyteller and a listener. And he actively worked to build a better world by building a relationship between these two important roles. His life’s work was dedicated to looking for stories that were missing from the history books, to listening to voices on the periphery, and to doing what he could to empower others to tell and share their stories in their own words. David authored, or co-authored, many books and academic publications, and continued to contribute to the untold history of Yukon after his retirement.
Although they followed very different career pathways, both David and Joy considered it a professional obligation to mentor younger colleagues who would one day take their place. As important as their careers were, neither David nor Joy was defined by their work; each had many other interests and talents. Their top priority was always family, beginning with each other, Andrew and Erin, their son-in-law Stephen Horton, their “kiwi” grandchildren Hector, Finlay, and Hugo, and their extended and “Yukon” families. David taught many in his orbit to always look for and respect the multitude of ways of being in the world; and he willingly shared his well-honed Boy Scout skills on river trips, camping adventures and hikes along the Chilkoot Trail. You would be hard pressed to find someone who had a better system of putting up a tarp in camp than David. Joy saw the good in everyone, and embraced all with warmth and generosity of spirit. While David found peace and comfort on the river, Joy pursued gardening, singing in choirs, and creating sumptuous dinners for friends, colleagues and travelers. They shared a love of travelling and learning about other countries and cultures.
The Yukon is a sadder, poorer community without David and Joy, and they will be missed by many. May their memories be a blessing.
A service will be held online, hosted by the Whitehorse United Church, on Friday, 27th November at 2pm. Please find the link to the service at