Planning for a beluga and seal hunt using only harpoons and spears and catching ducks with nets, Don Ayalik was ready to teach his protege and close friend Jeremy Tremblay more traditional skills.
They had ventured out on the land and water many times together as Ayalik shared Inuit harvesting practices and principles.
But there won’t be another occasion.
Tremblay died suddenly on April 25 at age 37.
Ayalik’s hunting partner was always eager to learn traditional skills, and he was happy to share his game with members of the community, Ayalik recalled.
“He was very compassionate about other people and very thoughtful of the things they needed and what they wanted,” Ayalik said of Tremblay. “A lot of elders are going to miss him.”
Ayalik knows the depth of Tremblay’s kindness. When Ayalik encountered hard times and was living in a tent for over two years, even at -40C, Tremblay often checked on him.
“He’d come see me and ask me if I needed anything,” he recalled. “Jeremy was always there for me. He helped me through everything.”
Jeremy’s two children were his greatest love, according to those who were close to him.
“To see him with his kids, it was very touching. He really lit up when he was talking about them or showing pictures of them. It was really his pride and joy,” said Lori Rudyk, who met Tremblay in 1999 when she befriended Jeremy’s mother, Naomi, a teacher.
Derrick Power, Tremblay’s boss at the Kugluktuk Co-op, also knew that about him.
“He was a loving father,” said Power. “His children came before anything.”
At the store, Tremblay’s co-workers and customers became comfortably familiar with his unassuming and friendly demeanour over several years.
Power described him as a “jack of all trades” who could maintain the office, work with groceries, drive the truck, do deliveries and more.
“(He) never complained. He did what he was asked, no problems,” Power said. “He was a very pleasant individual, very soft-spoken and very easy to get along with. He was a very nice, easy-going person… We all miss him every day.”
“He presented sort of as a very quiet guy but once you get to know him, you’d soon see he was very intelligent, had a great sense of humour, and also very kind, patient, generous with his time,” she said. “He was always willing to help. He helped me many times, taking care of my son, my cat and my house when I was away. He was just willing to help for the sake of being a friend… I don’t think he had any idea how he touched people just by his patience, kindness and helpfulness.”
Tremblay was also keenly interested in bikes, travelling, photography and guns. Ayalik recalled the two of them practising their marksmanship many times. The pair met when Tremblay was 14, shortly after Tremblay moved to Kugluktuk. Ayalik was about 17 years older. Over the years, their time together would sometimes veer into philosophical and spiritual conversations.
“I’m glad for good memories,” Ayalik said. “He was like my adopted son, my brother and my best friend all put into one… I realized some people are born brothers but some brotherhoods are earned.”