A new scholarship is available for Sahtu, N.W.T., beneficiaries pursuing a post-secondary or trades education.
The scholarship was created in memory of the late George Cleary, whose family describes as a humble family man, and great leader.
Cleary was also a residential school survivor. He died peacefully in Yellowknife with family by his side, said his brother-in-law, Danny Gaudet, at the age of 65 in September 2020.
Gaudet says it was his sister, Doreen Cleary — Cleary's wife — who had the idea to create the scholarship, as the couple have always been involved with youth.
Gaudet said the couple, who both went on to be teachers and helped develop programming still used in schools across the territory, were known for taking children on onto the land.
"They did that pretty much all the time, they really enjoyed the outdoors," he said. "And it helped us get away from, you know, issues ... at home."
Gaudet said as Cleary's career progressed, he would also work on trying to get kids to stay in school, as did Doreen, who also eventually took on guidance counselling work.
"So Doreen decided at one point, after George's passing, that it would be a good thing to try to support youth and do something George would really appreciate," Gaudet said.
"She decided that she would take some of her money and set up this foundation for people to go get an education."
Cleary was also in the midst of writing stories, some funny, some serious, geared toward children, Gaudet said.
"So you can see that he was always interested in, you know, making sure that the youth were involved," he said.
The scholarship isn't just for youth, Gaudet said — it's open to older adults too who want to go to post-secondary.
"They've always encouraged older people to go back to school, go and get a trade," said Gaudet. "So, the foundation is also here for that group also."
'Like a second dad'
Gaudet says he knows Cleary would be happy that the scholarship was created.
He says the man, who played sports "until he couldn't," was a role model for him growing up.
"I've always said that he was almost like my second dad, and he certainly stepped up to that," Gaudet said, adding Cleary was always gentle to youth, even if they were mischievous.
"My fondest memories of him was just simply taking us out in the bush…. No matter how bad or awful we were … you'd never see him get mad at that," Gaudet said with a laugh. "He just talked to us.… When he was explaining things, you know we did something wrong."
Gaudet says he encourages those interested in the scholarship to apply, and that donations are welcome so that the scholarship can eventually be expanded.
The George Cleary scholarship is being administered by the Yellowknife Community Foundation