The road less travelled to Yellowknife

Where are they now?

Thomas Parker and Katie O’Beirne.
Thomas Parker and Katie O’Beirne.

When Thomas Parker, a Leaside resident and graduate, told his parents, Beth and John, that he and wife Katie O’Beirne were moving to Yellowknife seven years ago, his parents were thrilled for them to embark on a great adventure. As Beth commented, “If you don’t take opportunities when you’re young, they slip away from you.”

Before making the momentous decision to move to Yellowknife for “work and adventure,” Thomas and Katie, who met while at the University of Waterloo, had spent some time teaching English in Europe. Then, back at home, struggling with student debts and looking for work, they heard about great job opportunities in Yellowknife from friends living there. These friends found them a place to stay and introduced them to the community. The area was also appealing because of its abundance of outdoor activities.

Today, Thomas works for the territorial government, managing operations and maintenance of parks in the area. Katie manages a clothing boutique and teaches yoga, but is currently on maternity leave with their son Patrick, born last October.

Patrick’s birth has also led to a lifestyle change. For three years, they lived off grid on a houseboat heated by a wood stove and powered by solar panels. As Thomas says, “Keeping everything running was hard work, but very rewarding.” This included many time-consuming chores such as chopping wood for the stove, pumping water from the lake and going to the laundromat, but with their parenting duties, they no longer had any down time. 

So, they recently moved to a fourplex apartment close to downtown with the conveniences of central heating, a washer and dryer, and plumbing, all making life with a baby more manageable.

Their biggest challenge in Yellowknife is the length and harshness of the winters and the shortness of the summers. They also miss being close to their families and being able to buy fresh Ontario produce. On the other hand, the greatest reward in living there is the easy access to nature with plenty of trails for skiing, biking and hiking, not to mention their growing involvement in the community. Thomas and Katie both volunteer on the board of the Snowking Winter Festival, a music festival held in a castle made of ice and snow, and Katie is also involved with some local arts organizations. 

They also enjoy the surprising diversity of cultures in such a small and remote place, starting with the strong northern Indigenous culture and now including Filipino, Muslim, Maritime and Quebecois communities.

Thomas compares Yellowknife’s close-knit feel to Leaside, which he describes as “a small community in a big city where you get to know neighbours and other families through school, sports and church. Yellowknife is a small community, too, and you meet friends in different social circles around town.” But the bonds are perhaps even closer there as people spend more time together during holidays rather than travelling.

Clearly, Thomas and Katie have found a niche in Yellowknife.

About Janis Fertuck 60 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.