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A Dream – Mission Accomplished

By Jan Rosdail

In 2017, Jay Rosdail, who had a spirit of adventure and a fascination of remote places his entire life, shared his plans to travel to the Northwest Territories to drive the soon to be opened road to the Arctic Ocean. He had a new van and was figuring out a way to make the trip work in the most frugal fashion, camping along the 6000 KM route from his home in Iowa. He and his grandfather had driven to Yellowknife years before and Jay retold their adventures often.

As fate would have it, Jay was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor two weeks before the new hard surfaced road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk was to open in November of 2017.  Through his surgery and all his treatments, he never gave up the dream.  He searched for a traveling companion and talked about the new road to Tuk with every doctor, healthcare worker, fellow patient, friend, family member and any visitor who would listen.  He educated a lot of folks, but got no takers.  He was too frail to travel, but Jay kept the dream alive until his death at age 70 in June of 2019.  

When we, his family, were cleaning out his things, we found a brochure with an article about the “Walk to Tuk” sponsored by the NWTRPA and became intrigued about this 1685 Km virtual activity.   During January and February, the darkest part of the year, hundreds of northern residents form teams, tracking their distances up the Mackenzie River to the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk.  It seemed like the perfect way to honor Jay!

 In 2020, the Rosdail family, ages 5-93, formed two teams totaling over 30 participants and we entered the walk. Both the “Young Jack Rabbit Jay Walkers” (sons, granddaughters nieces and nephews) and the “Old Tortoise Jay Walkers” (siblings, spouses) completed the distance.

Our tribute to Jay was shared over Cabin Radio and the CBC North TV station.  When it ended, Jay’s Kiwanis name badge was taken by the NWTRPA staff to the end of the road.  It was such a lovely tribute. 


That wasn’t the end, though… it was the beginning of a new adventure! 

Holly Carpenter, a native-born from Tuktoyaktuk and a teacher at Mangilakuk School invited me, Jay’s sister Jan, to join the school team the following January.  I have remotely participated each winter since 2020 and Holly and I have become friends.  

This past September, my husband Roger Aegerter and I decided it was time to honor Jay’s spirit and take a journey of our own.  In spite of the fires, we were able to travel without major disruptions by flying and driving. We rented a vehicle in Inuvik and drove the new road for ourselves.    We decided it was actually a pilgrimage! 

 We met many interesting travelers and adventure seekers with whom we swapped stories. What a joy it was to finally walk and drive on that now famous route! The scenery was spectacular with fall colors emerging. 

We met many interesting travellers and adventure seekers with whom we swapped stories. What a joy it was to finally walk and drive on that now famous route! The scenery was spectacular with fall colors emerging. 

 During our three days’ visit we were warmly welcomed by the residents of Tuk, who shared their community and culture, their stories of the past and dreams for the future.  As fellow educators, a highlight was meeting Holly and touring the school.  Like many who make this amazing trip, we dipped our toes in the Arctic, filled a bottle with ocean water, took pictures of “Jay” on the shore and left a rock in his memory by the ocean.  

Upon our return to Iowa, we stopped by Jay’s grave, had a few moments of remembrance and poured the waters of the Arctic Ocean on the soil where he is buried.  Jay couldn’t make it to Tuk, so we brought Tuk to him.  Now we can say, “Mission Accomplished!” 

Postface by Holly Carpenter

“I started the Walk to Tuk many years ago, I’m located in Tuktoyaktuk as a teacher. I had the teachers and local elders be a part of the Walk to Tuk. (…) Over the years, I included as many people as I could and there was one special lady, her name is Jan. Her brother had wanted to participate in Walk to Tuk, and he was from the United States.  Unfortunately, he passed away and Walk to Tuk was one of his dreams. This past summer (2023) I was able to meet Jan and her husband and I was able to show her Tuktoyaktuk.  This was a dream that she fulfilled for her late brother.  I am so fortunate to be in Tuktoyaktuk (where the name comes from) and I am so excited that we are continuing to keep the name. The name is important as the participants achieve their health goals.  I thank the NWT Parks and Recreation for always having some sort of gift for the participants whether it’s a T-shirt, a toque or mugs. This is so exciting for participants.”