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The Yukon Territory lost one of its great visual talents with the passing of John Hatch in December, 2000.
Mac's Fireweed Books is pleased to have secured the publication rights to his large and eclectic body of work.
Over the past several years we have been "cataloging" and scanning this collection and will be starting, in May 2005, to make a significant sampling widely available through our website.
High resolution scans of all images presented in this gallery are available for reproduction, subject to very nominal royalty fees. All fees collected will be donated to the Yukon Historical & Museums Association in John Hatch's name.
City loses a Colourful Five Per Center
By Michael Hale
A Whitehorse Star archive story originally published
December 12, 2000
A piece of the puzzle that is Yukon history was lost Monday evening with the passing of local photographer,
collector, historian and charmer John Hatch.
Hatch, who would have turned 64 next month, was described by a friend today as "one of the last larger-than-life
characters in the Yukon."
Andy Connors, a friend who was working on a documentary of Hatch and the Shipyards area where he lived, recalled the open,
giving nature of the man.
"He was a true ambassador for frontier Whitehorse.
People from all over would be staying at his place, and his hospitality was always free."
Jim Robb, the noted Whitehorse artist, called Hatch one of his closest friends.
"John Hatch was an eccentric, talented, colourful character that many people loved.
We will never see his like again."
"Many of the Colourful Five Per Cent personalities are like that – unique to themselves."
Hatch was born in Montreal, where his mother still lives, and moved to the Yukon in the late 1960s.
Hatch always spoke with pride about the Yukon, and what the people who lived here managed to accomplish despite the
remoteness of the territory.
Ever the photographer, Hatch managed to document the changing face of Whitehorse as it stumbled and grew into the city it is today.
Along the way, Hatch ended up in a lengthy dispute with the Yukon government about the land he lived on.
The Shipyards, located on the banks of the Yukon River north of First Avenue and Strickland Street,
have been at dispute for over a decade, as those who squatted on the land fought with the government over their
rights to be compensated for having to move.
Hatch's life, however, was about much more than this public dispute.
Liesel Briggs, from Yukon Learn, has known Hatch for 30 years.
"The literacy community is very sad today," said an emotional Briggs.
"John was a true volunteer in every sense. He was a great community-minded person.
Briggs said Hatch did all of Yukon Learn's photography and even worked on a recent book detailing the history of the Klondike.
"He was on the board as both a learner and an editor."
In his capacity as a learner, said Briggs, Hatch was able to tell the people putting the book together where he felt people
were likely to have trouble and how to fix it.
"He was a very intelligent man with a very analytical mind.
Sadly, he wasn't always treated well by people, because he was such an eccentric.
But it's eccentrics that make life interesting."
Hatch also contributed photos to the Star occasionally.
Hatch's neighbour and good friend, Vince Fedoroff, spent last night reminiscing about the man around a friend's kitchen table.
"It was always his dream to have a photographer's retreat where people could come from all over the and stay with
him and just take pictures," said Fedoroff.
"He always had someone over at this house."
Anyone who went into Hatch's cabin was asked to sign a guest book,
which functioned as a physical memory of all the bodies and faces that moved through Hatch's life.
Fedoroff described Hatch as an "amazing collector with a great eye for the unusual."
Besides collecting names in his book, Hatch had a great marble collection to go along with his myriad of egg-cups
and possibly the largest collection of Robb napkin sketches from days spent drinking and talking with the man.
"His house if full of stuff," said Fedoroff.
What happens to all that stuff is a big concern to those who knew Hatch.
"John was one of a very few people who went out of his way to document Yukon history," said Robb.
"He photographed all the interesting characters and buildings he could for 30 years."
Robb wants those photographs to be given to the Yukon Archives, so the history they document won't be lost.
Connors said he was at Hatch's house only last Sunday, filming the man as he prepared to bring some of his things
out of storage and back to his home.
"I don't think John could ever have lived the nine-to five life most of us live," mused Connors.
"He was too much of an eccentric."
That quality that endeared him to so many also made it hard for Hatch in some situations, explained Briggs.
Fedoroff retold a story that captures a bit of how Hatch thought and acted.
Hatch once bought a really high-quality pair of boots, said Fedoroff, and he wore them into the ground.
After they were of no use anymore, Hatch polished the boots up and wrote up a letter to the company telling it how
if could improve its product and make the footwear more suited to heavy wear-and-tear. He also sent the boots.
In response, remembered Fedoroff, the company sent him a brand new pair of boots.
"And they have already made all the changes John thought should be made," Fedoroff said through a broad smile.
Hatch wasn't exactly slowing down with time, either.
After nearly 30 years in the Yukon, Hatch went of a trip to Japan in the early 1990s.
He followed that up with a stint in the Concordia University arts program in Montreal in 1998.
"He went to Japan on a wing and a prayer," remembers Fedoroff.
"He had no money, but he'd helped so many Japanese travelers who stayed at his home,
that he had lots of friends who helped him out.
"That willingness to help others was another major theme of Hatch's life.
Robb, Connors, Briggs and Fedoroff all made a point of remembering the compassionate nature of the man,
and selfless way he gave to those around him
Briggs remembers Hatch sending care packages off to her daughter, while her daughter was away at school.
"He was always thinking about others" said Briggs.
Connors thinks the community needs to look at erecting a permanent reminder of the man,
so he isn't forgotten with the passing of time.
"I hope to see a large memorial to John, because he was a true Yukon elder.
Characters like him are a big part of why I moved up here.
"He was just a beautiful eccentric."
An emotional Briggs explained why she spoke to the Star about Hatch after hearing about his death.
"If, by talking about John today, people can learn to treat eccentrics with more care and respect,
then the difficulty (of talking about his death) is worth it.
"Robb spoke out for an equally dignified and simple reason: "I've lost a dear friend."
Simply put, the man will be dearly missed.
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