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Northmart's familiar face retires
Don Baryluk hangs up his work coat after 42 years in the town's grocery store

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, June 22, 2017

A 19-year-old Don Baryluk was curious about indigenous culture and had an eye for the North when he applied to a Hudson Bay Company job opening advertised in the Regina Leader-Post back in 1971.

NNSL photograph

Don Baryluk has retired after 42 years at Northmart in Inuvik. He originally applied to a Hudson Bay Company job opening at the Regina Leader-Post at age 19 and requested to go to one of the northern postings. - Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

He got hired by the company that summer and bounced all over Alberta and Saskatchewan before moving to Fort Simpson for a year, then Fort Liard and finally Inuvik. On June 12, Baryluk retired after 42 years with the Inuvik Northmart.

"I wanted to travel and see as much as I could, and I thought how else would I see the Great White North without joining a company like that?" said Baryluk.

"I thought it would be an interesting career move on my part to work with indigenous people. It just intrigued me. I thought this would be great. It would be totally different."

He originally requested to go to Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven or Spence Bay, but Inuvik is as remote as he made it.

When Baryluk came to Inuvik in 1975, he was supposed to stay for two years. But he met his wife, Ethel Jane, who was visiting from Alberta and married her after a short courtship.

"The rest is history," said Baryluk, who now has three children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The community is why he stayed.

"I like the people here," said Baryluk. "I find them very friendly, very outgoing. (It's a) multicultural community with different ethnic groups. It was very rewarding to meet all different kinds of people."

He came to Inuvik as grocery store manager and left Northmart as department manager of foods, after working in just about every department over the course of his career.

Inuvik was riding an oil boom when he showed up, and the military was much more active in the region.

"We were very busy," remembers Baryluk. "I always found Inuvik intriguing. It was almost like a western town. It had wooden boardwalks, muddy streets, burn barrels, hunting bucket barrels along the road. It was really unique, and there were a lot of people here. It was a busy, busy town."

He's met too many people to pick out any specific memories from his career at Northmart.

"I have many fond memories of the place and I'd have to write a small book," he said.

As time went on, Baryluk focused more on providing for his family than chasing adventure.

"Family's always been important to me," he said. "Unfortunately, working as long as I have, I've never had as much time with my family as I'd like to have. But I work for my family. My family was my priority. It wasn't about me getting ahead in the world and becoming the president."

Baryluk will be turning 66 in December and has joined his wife in retirement.

He looks forward to continuing to meet people, his favourite part of his job, not as an employee of Northmart, but as a citizen of Inuvik.

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