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Simpson mourns elder

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 08/06) - Jimmy Isiah was mourned at a funeral on Dec. 2 that filled the gymnasium at Thomas Simpson school.

Isiah died at the age of 68 on Nov. 28 when the snowcat he was using to clear snow on the Fort Liard crossing broke through the ice.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Jimmy Isiah will be remembered for his dedication to his family and his work. - photo courtesy of the Isiah family

Isiah was born on July 6, 1938, to Eva Browning and Fostner John Browning. He was raised at the mouth of the Martin River.

He married Florence Norwegian and together they had four children: Harold, Beverly, Karen and Gordie.

Although his family moved into town, Isiah was always happiest at his cabin on the Martin River, said Keyna Norwegian, one of his nieces. Isiah had a large garden at the cabin where he planted potatoes every year.

"He loved being out on the land," Norwegian said.

Isiah spent as much time as possible on the land, she said. One spring after the ice broke and the river was clear Isiah decided to take his boat to the cabin. Everyone said it was too soon, said Norwegian, but he still went. That night the river was full of ice again and everyone was concerned.

The next day, however, Isiah was back. He'd went into a channel of the Martin River, pulled his boat up high and sat it out, said Norwegian.

Isiah will also be remembered for his dedication to his work.

He had always worked as a heavy equipment operator and liked being on the machines. He often said he'd be too bored if he ever retired, said Norwegian.

"He died doing what he loved," she said.

Isiah worked for a number of construction companies and helped build many roads, said Minnie Letcher during the eulogy.

While working on the roads he was always waving or nodding at people.

"He was very passionate about his job," Letcher said.

His dedication to the job didn't run from nine to five. One winter night Florence woke up at 2 a.m. to find him missing. Isiah had gone out to plow snow off the roads so they'd be clean when people woke up, said Letcher relating the story.

"When Jimmy was on the road everyone felt safe," said Letcher.

Many people will remember Isiah as a kind, quiet man.

"Jimmy loved his family dearly," said Letcher.

Remembering his father, Gordie Isaiah said if you did something wrong he would just talk to you.

"He never got mad at us," said Gordie.

If you had a problem Isiah always had time to listen, said Martina Norwegian, a niece.

Isiah was a pillar of strength who was always encouraging and positive. He never had anything bad to say about anyone, she said.

"He always knew what to say," said Norwegian.

Isiah leaves behind 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.