Michael Bruce “Black Mike” Laforet
“Black Mike” Laforet has exited the Yukon for the final time, after a prolonged and valiant battle against C.O.P.D. and emphysema. He first came to the Yukon in May of 1966, with partner Jim Winberg, to prospect for gold in the Tombstone Mountains. This was a major departure from his previous history, where he had made his mark in Olympic-style wrestling, the Martial arts and as a Military Policeman. He had also succeeded in the business of advertising, with newspapers, radio, and National ad agencies. Old-timers may remember Mike from seven years as the bouncer at the old Whitehorse Inn, working with “The Canucks.” Those were different and exciting times, but he could brag that he never started a fight, and never lost one. He also made his mark, for six years, with a weekly column, “The Sourdough Sage” in the Yukon News, as well as a daily morning feature on CBC Northern Service. He then left the Yukon for two years to accept a position as Chairman of the Communications Department for a prominent Ontario college.
Back in the Yukon, Mike began a new career when he opened “Black Mike’s Gold Mines” on a promising property 20 miles south of Whitehorse. For 15 years, he entertained and educated Yukon visitors about the importance and history of Yukon placer mining. During this time, he was called on by fellow placer miners to champion their fight against the bureaucracy. This led to the bi-weekly newspaper, “The Placer Mining Times,” where Mike was both editor and Publisher. When he married a pretty Swedish girl on August 17, 1980, the event was called the “Social Event of the Season” by local media. Black Mike had been divorced since 1985, and had, long ago, lost touch with family members, once based in Brampton, Ontario. Mike was especially proud of his 30-year membership in Whitehorse Toastmasters, where he excelled at training newcomers in the areas of “Using humor in Public Speaking,” and in the effective evaluation techniques.
In recent years, Mike was featured in the local media, now and then. After two seasons on the Whitehorse Trolley, telling his jokes and sharing our history, Mike made news. Sometimes he would write biting and funny Letters To The Editor, defending the rights of the placer miners against excessive bureaucracy. He told friends he had once been the emcee at a totally nude beach wedding, and he noted, “Boy, you could sure tell who the Best Man was.”
As a tough old guy, he wasn’t afraid of death. He kept busy everyday, creating Water Licenses and Y.E.S.A.B. applications for old placer mining buddies. His long-time friend, Jim Robb, defines his as “definitely one of our colorful five-percent.”
The Yukon is a somewhat lesser place today, as the likes of “Black Mike” Laforet will be missed.