Over the years Crystal touched many lives in Inuvik. Here she poses with Debbie Bernhardt during a belly dance class she helped out with during Girl Guides. photo courtesy of Peggy Jay
Over the years Crystal touched many lives in Inuvik. Here she poses with Debbie Bernhardt during a belly dance class she helped out with during Girl Guides. photo courtesy of Peggy Jay

Across Inuvik and beyond, people are remembering a woman who touched their hearts.

Crystal and her mother Beverly Tysor at Myrtle Beach. Her mother said she absolutely loved to go there and it made a great place to set up a visit. photo courtesy of Beverly Tysor

Crystal Navratil, a longtime resident of Inuvik and huge advocate for mental, spiritual and physical wellness, passed away April 21 following a snowmobile accident near Airport Road. She was 45 years old.

An outpouring of grief filled the community almost immediately. A deep friend of Elders, godmother, activist, volunteer and a leukemia survivor, Navratil leaves behind a chasm of boots to fill.

“Crystal was always my first call when I was organizing an event in Inuvik,” said friend Ali McConnell. “She was so passionate about her work and her love for the community was inspiring. She truly put her heart and soul into everything she did.

“Crystal was an integral part of the community and will not be forgotten. She will live on through the memories we share, the smiles we hold dear, and the lives that she touched.”

When the Olympic Torch Relay came through Inuvik in 2009, Crystal was selected as one of its carriers. Friend say she was always ready to try anything. photo courtesy of Trevor Smith

Also known as Piipinguaq, which is Inuvialuktun for doll, Navratil wore many different hats over the years. From working in hospitality at the Mackenzie Inn, to corrections officer overseeing troubled youth, to advocating for mental and physical health awareness as the community health representative through NWT Public Health, she was everywhere. This was on top of the hours upon hours of volunteer work she put into causes in support of better living in the North.

Many in the Delta will honour her memory by wearing her homemade jewellery. Navratil once told Inuvik Drum she learned the craft during shop class and had not stopped making earrings since. Her booth was always a popular stand during the Arctic winter markets.

Crystal at her 40th birthday party. Friends and family came together to remember a free spirit who was always the life of the party. photo courtesy of Trevor Smith

“I will miss her classy, glamorous style, her laughter, hugs and warmth of her heart,” said friend Jeannie Greenland. “The abundance of love she spread through her acts of kindness like the butterfly she was.

“I love you Crystal.”

Originally born in Edmonton, Navratil moved to Inuvik in the early 1980s at age seven and never looked back. Aside from spending a year teaching English in South Korea with her sister, friends and family say her heart and soul was in the Delta.

“I met Crystal in her Grade 9 math class,” said friend Mary Beckett. “Later she worked in my office, and became a great favourite of my kids. I always remember her smile and her resilience to all the awful stuff. She just made everything seem fun.”

While much of the community is still in a state of shock, all are in agreement she will be sorely missed. Between her work with the Inuvik Mental Health Awareness Working Group to showing children how tobacco affects the lungs in Reindeer Station mere weeks ago. When she wasn’t sharing her extensive knowledge, she was keeping people engaged and interested with card tricks and other performance art. She also ran a babysitting program to help youth find gainful employment.

Crystal hugs a bear during a trip to Golden, B.C. in 2009. Friends say she was always up for a spontaneous adventure in any situation. photo courtesy of Natasha Kulikowski

“A smile on her face, a flower in her hair and all the kindness, patience and time in the world for Inuvik’s youth,” reminisced friend Jenn Shreenan.

Support from the community for its fallen friend and her family has been enormous. The Gwich’in Tribal Council and Nihtat Gwich’in Council opted to use Gwich’in Day to raise money for the memorial costs, running a draw on the day and donating 75 per cent of the proceeds to the family. A Facebook group was established to share memories of her. A healing circle for her friends and family was held at Ingamo Hall on April 29.

“We will all miss her hard work to ensure we were healthy,” said friend Delores Harley. “She would give smoothies out, toothbrushes, hugs, exercise programs, babysitting courses, stop smoking campaign, National Addictions Awareness Week events. So many things she made sure we were aware of. Life jackets and many speeches of health topics.

“She always helped anywhere and made sure she hugged or high-fived when the event would be complete. She is really missed in this community she called home.”

Others remembered the dear friend who would stop everything to help them out if they were having trouble. The guaranteed smile on a tough day and the hours and hours of laughter from good times and wild parties. And someone who was always just a phone call away from an adventure.

“All my favourite memories have her in them,” said friend Jenna MacNeil. “It’s surreal to think we won’t be making anymore.”

A celebration of Navratil’s life is being planned for later in the summer.

Crystal meets David Unrau, a bone marrow donor who helped Crystal overcome leukemia when she was a teenager. Her mother thanked him for giving her many more decades of life. photo courtesy of Beverly Tysor

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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