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Adrian Halushka, 48, remembered for his big heart

Adrian Halushka appears in an image provided by his sister, Aaron Haluska.

Family and friends are mourning Yellowknifer Adrian Halushka, who passed away on Wednesday.

“He had a beautiful spirit,” said sister Aaron Halushka. “Always smiling. He always had a kind word for people and he would always acknowledge you.”

Adrian died by drowning, the NWT coroner’s office said in a statement.

While swimming in Frame Lake hasn’t been popular since the 90s due to concerns about contamination, Adrian loved swimming to one of the lake’s islands. Family members think that’s what he set out to do on Wednesday morning.

“He would go over there, sit on the rock for a bit, meditate, and then swim back,” said Aaron. “He probably swam out to that island 20 times, but he just didn’t make it this time.”

“He swam out there quite a few times,” said Jerry Halushka, Adrian’s father. “He was a good swimmer, but I think all the smoke might have slowed him down.”

Smoke from wildfires has been extraordinarily thick in Yellowknife for days.

Adrian as a child with his father, Jerry, in a picture submitted by Aaron Halushka.
Adrian catching fish as a child in a photo submitted by Aaron Halushka.

Adrian, a former diamond driller, was born and raised in the NWT. He was 48 years old.

Aaron, six years younger, remembers being in awe of him growing up.

“I cut my hair in a mullet just like him,” she said. “I idolized him. He used to call me ‘me too,’ because anywhere he was going, it was ‘me too, I wanna come.'”

She describes Adrian as deeply devoted to his family.

“His sister Haley is blind and autistic, and he would always go out of his way to take her on special rides on his Ski-Doo, and she just adored him,” she said.

“He loved teaching his nieces and nephews how to cast fishing rods and tie lines. He would go and water my dad’s garden every day and check in on him.

“No matter how he was doing, he always made sure he let us all know how much we were loved by him.”

Adrian loved to snowmobile, relatives said. Photo: Aaron Halushka
Adrian on the job as a diamond driller. Photo: Aaron Halushka

Jerry remembers him as an outdoorsman, working outside and spending hours on the land on snow machines, ice fishing, and being out at the cabin.

“When we worked for companies diamond drilling, it was all bush work,” Jerry said. “He loves fishing. Loved being on the lake.”

Adrian is survived by his partner, Tina Abel. Through Abel, Halushka had close ties to Łútsël K’é, and a contingent from the community is expected to fly in to Yellowknife for his service next week.

“He had a big heart,” Jerry said. “I’m getting about a hundred Facebook messages about him from people all over.”

Aaron described her brother as a “true northerner” with lasting ties to the territory, in Yellowknife and beyond.

“I want him to be remembered for his authentic, beautiful northern self,” said Aaron. “He’s going to be dearly missed.”