Image Alt

David Neufeld & Joy Waters

February 11, 1953 ~ September 9, 2020 - May 1, 1955 ~ July 29, 2020

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

Comments (6)
  • 10 November 2020

    I worked with and for Joy during the several years in 1990s and into the 2000s when she was ADM at Environment. She was also acting DM several times during that time in between other DMs. I really enjoyed working with her! As your obituary states, she had high integrity and ethical standards; and she was a calm and fair presence.

    I didn’t work with David directly, but knew him through Joy and through some work-related meetings; and we had fun conversations when we ran into each other in the grocery store.

    It was with great sadness that I learnt that first Joy, then David, had passed away. I will remember both Joy and David for the great people they were!

    My sincere condolences,

  • 17 November 2020

    This is such a shock. My family knew Joy’s family from the midfifties – in fact Joy’s father and my father met on the boat coming over here from the UK, and the Waters family and mine became fast friends for many years. Joy and Jane were like cousins to my sister and me. Such a loss and so early in life. Jane, if you read this, please know how sorry the whole family is to learn of their deaths and please accept our deepest sympathies. Nigel

  • 17 November 2020

    Our family were very close with Joy’s family in childhood after our respective fathers met each other on the boat to Canada. It was quite a shock for my father Ron and my brother Nigel and I to hear this dreadful news. Both Joy and David were wonderful people and they will be sadly missed.

  • 26 November 2020

    Dave was an excellent mentor for me when I was his intern at Parks Canada in Whitehorse about 18 years ago. He is responsible for my understanding of Yukon history and how to share it with others. He had a great respect for Yukon First Nations storytelling. As the obituary states he was always working to help others share their stories in their own words. Dave taught me so much and still influences the way I teach Social Studies to high school students in Whitehorse. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Dave and Joy. All the best to their children, Erin and Andrew. We are thinking of you.

  • 28 November 2020

    So sorry for your loss. I sang in the Community Choir for this and I had to help my brother and missed seeing it. Could you send me a link to the service?

  • 1 December 2020

    “The Yukon (…and the world) is a sadder, poorer community without David and Joy…”.

    Truer words could not be spoken. I knew David and Joy via many activities, friends and colleagues. They made a difference in so many ways, truly will be missed and loved family fiercely. May their legacies be everlasting. Peace.

Post a Comment

Where to find us


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur elit sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt.