Trapper, builder rememberedMan who built Checkpoint was known for unstoppable work ethic, spirituality
Northern News Services
Thursday, March 30, 2017
When Herb Norwegian thinks about his uncle Phil Norwegian, he remembers his uncle's heavily calloused hands - a sign of the hard hours and days he spent working.
Phil Norwegian is pictured here during a hunt near Fort Smith. - photo courtesy of Herb Norwegian
"All of us guys had great respect for him (growing up). There's not one moment where you'd see him lying down. He's out there at four, five o'clock in the morning - that's the kind of guy he was," Norwegian recalled.
"You look at his hands, and there were hard callouses. You could tell he's a hard-working man."
Phil Norwegian died on March 19 in Fort Smith at the age of 82.
Born into a family of eight brothers and sisters at Rabbitskin River, he lived in the Deh Cho intermittently throughout his life.
Phil is best known for his work at Checkpoint, having built the area up before selling it.
After spending years in Fort Smith, he returned to Fort Simpson in 1979 and began trapping near the Checkpoint area - about 66 kilometres from Fort Simpson.
"He trapped out there for years. He built a cabin right at Checkpoint, and it was right around that time he purchased the Checkpoint gas station," Herb recalls.
"Then he actually built the whole Checkpoint, by himself. They used to call him Mr. Checkpoint."
Much of the material Phil constructed Checkpoint with came from Fort Simpson's old community hall. Herb recalls Phil manually taking what he needed and hauling it to Checkpoint, until the area was complete.
And while he was noted for his work ethic,
Herb also remembers Phil's deep spirituality.
"He was really into prayer," Herb said.
Not much seemed to get Phil's spirit down. He bounced back from serious injuries and medical conditions, including a seemingly miraculous recovery after breaking a bone in his neck during a bad fall.
Through it all, he kept working.
Just before he gave up trapping, he suffered a heart attack while out on the trapline.
"I was supposed to meet him out there, and as I was coming closer to Checkpoint there was an ambulance coming back to town," Herb said.
"He must have had enough energy to bring himself back to the highway and on the Ski-Doo, back to camp, and then got the ambulance to come and pick him up."
That, Herb added, was a prime case of Phil's mental and spiritual resilience.
That was more than 20 years ago. After a stint in an Edmonton hospital, he returned to the Northwest Territories and moved to Fort Smith, where he did janitorial contract work.