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Mistissini mourns the passing of Larry Linton

BY Ben Powless Nov 10, 2021

A family lost its brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. A church lost its pastor. And a community lost a leader, as people across Eeyou Istchee mourn for the loss of Larry Linton of Mistissini, who passed away October 14. 

Born in Bloomingdale, New York on September 29, 1939, Linton’s life took him to ministry school before arriving in Waskaganish in 1961. He later moved to Nemaska in 1965 and eventually settled in Mistissini, where he would go on to lead the Faith Bible Chapel.

He leaves behind three children – Paul, David and Twyla – as well as 11 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. He was the oldest of nine siblings. He is predeceased by his late wife Peggy Linton, who passed in 2012.

“He was a crazy old man,” his son Paul says, with a laugh. “We’re all a bit crazy.”

“He lived by what he spoke, and by the word. He was always there to give a hand whenever anyone needed it, and he was always happy to do it. He was the example of what the Christian faith is,” Paul shares.

Linton was known for helping people and living his faith. When he moved to Nemaska, the community was barely serviced by planes, he bought a plane to be able to provide for his family, and to be able to visit people at their camps during the wintertime. 

He would go on to form his own flight company, flying from dawn until dusk six days a week, in every type of weather imaginable, ferrying people and goods from communities to camps and back. He was known to accept payment in the form of moose, fish or beer, or whatever people could afford to pay. 

That lasted until roads were built connecting the communities, where there would only be about five weeks of flying needed to service the areas not connected by vehicles. Linton also helped the late Paul Petawabano attain the flying hours he needed to get his commercial license, before going on to found Waasheshkun Airways.

Paul says his father got to know the land so well that people would just say, “Pick me up at my camp,” and he’d answer, “The one by the water or the mountains?” Linton never needed a map. His other son David ended up getting a commercial license and followed in his father’s footsteps. 

“The one thing that stands out as a family is the example he led in his life – his willingness to do what needed to be done. If wood needed to be cut, he cut it. If a house needed to be built, he helped. If a camp needed work, he worked at it. He worked tirelessly to stay ahead of starving, and to show people you could live a normal life and have a good relationship with God,” Paul says.

At Linton’s funeral, Paul noted that his father kept rabbits and chickens in the homes he had and joked that kids would borrow eggs from him without telling him. This never bothered him, of course. Paul shared another story of his father running out of fuel while flying and being forced to land. It took four days to find him, and when they did “he was happy because he had a planeload of meat, so one day he ate beaver, the next day caribou, and the day after moose.”

Mary Jane Petawabano first met Linton in the early 1970s through family members who attended parties and social nights at his house.

“Larry had a huge impact in our community because he had a ministry for children. Before he came to Mistissini we didn’t really have camps for children so at that point he started to gather the children along with his late wife Peggie,” Petawabano explains. Started in 1975, the camps became a tradition; he even got some horses so that the kids could learn how to ride.

“He was a big influence on our people and not only on the adults, but on the children. They loved him and going to his camps and Sunday school,” she adds. “People looked at him as being a member of the community, they didn’t look at him as a White man.” 

“For me personally I looked at Larry as my spiritual father, because he helped me to understand the Bible. I felt free to talk to him about any questions I had or share whatever it was I needed to find out about the Bible. He helped me to understand and to be grounded in God’s word and I’m very thankful to him.”

by Ben Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.