A much loved Elder and legendary Northern games athlete will be put to rest this Saturday, but many people in Inuvik aren’t waiting until then to pay their respects to their dear friend.
Friends and family of Tony Klengenberg gathered May 19 at Happy Valley Park to pay their respects and share their memories of him. Klengenberg passed away May 12 and a memorial service is scheduled for May 22. He was 56 years old.
With Covid-19 restrictions limiting how many people could gather in an outdoor space to 50 maximum, a guest list was maintained by Ruth Wright to ensure the gathering remained within safety precautions. A luncheon of goose, caribou head soup, tea, burgers and sweets was served to people as they passed through the gathering.
Those who gathered remembered a great friend, uncle and athlete.
“He was a good man,” said Judy Aviugane. “He always had a smile on his face.”
Klengenberg was legendary for his skills at traditional Inuvialuit games, routinely placing in the top tiers of the One Foot High Kick in 1982 in Fairbanks, Alaska by ascending eight feet, four inches. He won the event the year previous, with a leap of seven feet, six inches, telling the Edmonton Journal in 1981 that he “never trained.” He was awarded the Howard Rock Memorial Trophy for his outstanding athletic abilities in 1980 and later in the 1980s took the world record for the one foot high kick at eight feet, eight inches, ending Steve “Guluk” Cockney Sr’s five year reign.
He was also known for his One Hand Reach, where he managed to stretch out five feet and four-and-a-half inches in 1982.
On top of his athletic accomplishments, Klengenberg was also an active member of the community, serving various roles with Hunters and Trappers Associations and lending his knowledge of the land to mange groups. His knowledge of the Delta was noted as an exceptional help in a number of scientific studies ranging from the health of fish populations to the variations in ground temperatures.
At the gathering, friends remembered a fun guy who was always up for an adventure. Also remembering him for his unshakable sense of humour, a few friends couldn’t resist sending him off with a parting jab.
“He paid his debts,” joked friend Freddy Harrison. “….eventually.”