92-year-old Elder Gabe Kochon passes away from COVID-19

Gabe and Sarah Kochon celebrated 70 years of marriage in Fort Good Hope in July 2020. (Judi Kochon/CKLB)

Respected Fort Good Hope Elder Gabe Kochon has passed away. He is the first COVID-related death in the territory.

When his daughter Rose McNeely got the call Monday evening, she was told her father had only one hour to live.

“At the beginning, I didn’t accept it,” McNeely told CKLB. But she said she was comforted that he would no longer be suffering.

Kochon was medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital last week with a family member.

The family member was then able to organize a video chat with Gabe’s family in Fort Good Hope during his last hours.

All eight children had a chance to say goodbye.

Rose said her father was not responsive but that she asked for a sign.

“I could just see tears coming down his face,” she remembers.

“I think my dad knew it was time for him to go.”

Although the moment was shared through a screen, she says she felt like she was sitting beside him, holding his hand.

Rose is grateful for the opportunity to say goodbye, something many families have not had the opportunity to do during the pandemic.

Rose said her father was on the land when public health held a vaccine clinic in the community earlier this year. He started showing symptoms following the gathering in Fort Good Hope in early August.

Doctors told her that due to his age, it would be difficult to recover.

Marissa McNeely is one of his granddaughters.

She said she’s angry that he never got the chance to die peacefully of old age.

Kochon was known for regularly being out on the land.

Seeing him instead lying in a hospital bed was hard for Marissa.

She advises everyone in the community to take COVID-19 seriously, mask up and take care of each other.

The latest COVID information shows 220 cases in the NWT, 190 coming from the Sahtú.

The family is hoping the outbreak will slow down soon and be able to have a funeral in early September.

Kochon was also the father of CKLB’s North Slavey host Judi Kochon.

CKLB extends its deepest condolences to the Kochon family and friends.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com