Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 23, 2008
IQALUIT - The territory lost a larger than life icon when Jimmy Ekho, a.k.a. Arctic Elvis, died at the age of 48 recently.
"He was very gregarious, outgoing, friendly. He smiled a lot," said Udlu Pishuktie, 55, who knew Ekho since they were young children.
Jimmy Ekho, also known as Arctic Elvis, died in Iqaluit recently. - photo courtesy of bebo.com
Ekho died after complications related to respiratory problems. His funeral was held in Iqaluit with many friends and family in attendance on June 16.
Ekho was famed in his hometown of Iqaluit and beyond for his Arctic Elvis persona, complete with a seal skin suit made by his mother.
"He was a big fan of Elvis. That's all he played when he was younger," said Pishuktie.
Ekho was also a musician in his own right, and released an Inuktitut folk CD called Guti. Ekho was a bit of a media darling, and was featured internationally on Polish and German television as well as in North American publications including The Walrus and the Dallas Morning News.
Ekho's song, Guti, was featured on the 1995 live performance compilation CD The Inuit Artist World Show Case. He also performed in concerts throughout the North, including Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife.
"He wasn't an Elvis impersonator. He was just a big Elvis fan. A lot of his style and performance maybe was influenced by Elvis," said Brian Lunger, the manager and curator of Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.
Ekho's affable nature made him a perfect fit as a receptionist-tour guide at the museum for more than 20 years.
"He was really dedicated. We were really lucky to have had him working here," said Lunger. "He was genuinely interested in the culture and history of the area."
According to Lunger, Ekho was a people person who met people, answered their questions and guided them through the displays, and often he would tell people about his alter ego, Arctic Elvis.
Ekho made a strong impression on the museum's visitors.
"When people would come back to town, they'd often ask where Jimmy was. Even if they met him just for brief period of time, he made a real impression on them, a positive impression," said Lunger.
Pishuktie will remember Ekho as a generous man.
"He opened his home - a place to stay, food to eat for anyone who needed it," said Pishuktie.