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Claire Festel (1957-2014)

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 6:00pm

With great sadness Harbour Publishing announces the passing of author Claire Festel. Claire passed away in Penticton on June 9, just over a week after her 57th birthday.

Claire was the author of Remarkable Yukon Women (with portraits by Valerie Hodgson), which was published by Harbour Publishing in 2011. When the Hon. Doug Phillips, Commissioner of the Yukon, presented Claire with a Diamond Jubilee medal in 2013, in recognition of her contributions to the Yukon, he said "the only remarkable Yukon woman missing from the book of the same name was its author, Claire Festel."

Born in a small town on the scenic Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Claire early on developed a keen appreciation for storytelling and nature. Swapping stories around the bonfire down on the beach in summer or around the heater in wood camps accessed by snowmobile in winter was a key part of growing up. Claire went west to Alberta in 1976 to further her education and to explore Canada.

In 1977 she flew to the Yukon in search of a summer job and felt an immediate sense of belonging. Claire fully embraced all the territory has to offer, from running a trap line to representing the Yukon across the country on national boards to volunteering with the world's longest sled dog race.

Claire first lived in rural Yukon, in the Elsa mining area. A year after the mine shut down, she enrolled in the University of British Columbia. She graduated with an English honours degree in 1994. She toyed with leaving the Yukon and even spent a winter in Ontario, but she moved back. Shortly after, she met her husband, Ed.

Claire shared her passion for travel with Ed. Together, they explored the far reaches of the north by various means: canoe, snowshoe, private plane and on foot. Their adventures around the world were also active: trekking in the Himalayas, biking in Cuba, kayaking in Australia and Mexico, and hiking in any destination, from Switzerland to Australia to Canada. In 2009 she and Ed bought a home in the hills above Penticton, British Columbia.

Claire is survived by her husband, Eduard Festel and many life-long friends. She also leaves behind a remarkable legacy with her writing, which is a significant record of the many women who have contributed to the Yukon in diverse ways.