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Ute Merritt remembered

Jack Danylchuk
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 2, 2011

A brisk northwest wind rippled Back Bay and filled the sails of 20 boats launched to honour the memory of Ute Merritt, one of four crew members killed in the crash of a First Air 737 at Resolute, Aug. 20.

When the last boat was moored Wednesday night, tots of rum were raised to honour the woman Great Slave Cruising Club Commodore Jan Fullerton remembered with a quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it; but we must sail and not drift or lie at anchor."

The mood among the 100 or so friends and family who watched the boats sail past the club dock was serious but bright, more joyous than tearful - "the kind of party she would have wanted," said Fullerton.

Samantha Merritt said she couldn't think of a more fitting tribute.

"My mom loved sailing," she said after the clatter and clink of glasses subsided.

"I can't think of a more fitting tribute than seeing everyone here tonight, out in their boats, sailing. She would have been very proud.

"To sailing," Samantha proposed, and 100 tots of rum were raised in reply, and quaffed: "to sailing!"

Jim Merritt wanted everyone to know that "Ute was a great dreamer, and a great explorer and it was a great privilege to be her skipper. She always called me her skipper.

"She always wanted to be an incredible help-mate and she was," he said, and raised his glass: "First Mate!"

To keep Ute's memory alive, the family established a trophy in her name. It will go to the Great Slave Cruising Club member "who shows dedication to the club, enthusiasm for sailing, support for fellow sailors and general good cheer."

The Merritt children were at the party. Samantha, Karl, Devon, Nicholas and Victoria, "are set," said Jim.

"Our desire as a family is that you would support the children and widows of her crew. There is a trust fund for the Hare children, the Rutherfords and Anne Marie."

"And please, I don't want any more flowers," he said, drawing a laugh from the party.

Ute, 55, was one of three Yellowknife-based crew members who died in the crash as it made its approach into Resolute. Also from Yellowknife were flight attendant Anne Marie Chassie, 42, a mother of two teenagers, and first officer David Hare, 35, a father of three young girls. He also leaves behind his wife Jane.

Out of 15 people on board the plane, only three survived.

Trusts have been established in the names of the children of the First Air crew who died in the crash of flight 6560.

Memorial donations may be made at any Royal Bank of Canada branch for Noah and Hannah Rutherford, children of the pilot Capt. Blair Rutherford of Leduc, Alta.; at any Scotiabank branch for the Hare Girls Trust, and for Bradley and Ashley Chassie at any Scotiabank branch.

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