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Rocky Parsons, celebrated northern bush pilot, dies at 92

Rocky Parsons is pictured in 2015
Rocky Parsons is pictured at a Twin Otter anniversary event in 2015.

Brock “Rocky” Parsons, one of the North’s best-known bush pilots, has passed away at the age of 92.

His passing was confirmed in a notice posted to the website of Yellowknife’s McKenna Funeral Home, which stated Parsons had died on July 30. He was born in October 1926.

A longtime northerner, Parsons’ adventures across the territories as a bush pilot were most recently commemorated in the pages of a children’s picture book.

Parsons was also a war veteran, though he rarely spoke in public of his service.

A celebration of his life is to be held at Yellowknife’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church from 2pm on Tuesday, August 6.

Baseball Bats for Christmas, published in 1990 by author Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak and illustrator Vladyana Krykorka, tells the story of Parsons arriving at a high-Arctic community with Christmas presents in the winter of 1955.

The book may have been inspired by a December 1957 photo in the Toronto Star showing Parsons handing out parcels and letters.

Embed from Getty Images

Brock Parsons is shown delivering mail at an unidentified community on December 12, 1952. Frank Teskey/Toronto Star/Getty Images

One of Parsons’ more recent public appearances came at a ceremony in Yellowknife to mark the 50th anniversary of the Twin Otter aircraft type, in 2015.

Parsons used a Twin Otter to help Geological Survey mappers complete charts all the way up to the North Pole, landing on the ice every 50 kilometres so they could complete their work.

Recounting a tale that was perhaps a little off-message for the aircraft’s anniversary, he told reporters: “I left a Twin Otter at the North Pole.”

He continued: “I consider that my most memorable occasion. I, unfortunately – with a group of tourists – dropped one through the ice at the North Pole in the late 1970s.

“It’s up there somewhere, down at the bottom.”

Brock Parsons leaves behind his wife Mary, three daughters, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“He has flown away from us, but he will be forever in our hearts,” his family wrote in a short obituary notice, adding their thanks to the staff of Stanton Territorial Hospital’s intensive care and surgical units.

In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations to the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic, Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation, or Cancer Society.

Correction: August 1, 2019 – 9:44 MT. This article originally stated Baseball Bats for Christmas was published in 2017. The book was, in fact, first published in 1990.