On Thursday, June 7, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta gathered to honor and lay to rest Alaska’s own beloved legendary broadcaster and storyteller, John Active.
The funeral services began at 2 p.m. as over 300 friends and family packed the Bethel Moravian Church to say “Tue-i-ngunrituq,” or “this is not the last time,” to John Joseph Aqumgaciq Active.
“A lot of people know John. He has that voice that has knowledge,” Reverend Clifford Jimmie, who opened the service, said. “He will be missed, especially by the co-workers, because everybody used to hear him on KYUK.”
“As Ted Stevens was Alaska, John Active was KYUK,” longtime KYUK employee Chris Ho, a close friend of John’s who recited the eulogy, said.
“We appreciate everyone who shared their life with our brother, uncle, brother in-law, friend, soul mate and uppie, John Joseph Active. With love from the Active family,” Ho said.
Following Clifford Jimmie’s sermon, songs and prayers, a last viewing and the burial, everyone gathered back at the church to eat and reflect.
“So when the feasts like this, when he was able to make it to the feasts, we used to try to sit together.” Anna Kinegak, one of John’s cousins said. “He would eat and then he would go – [makes slurping noise – laughs]. Good memories of him; he was always very kind.”
“Always treated me like family, even though I barely knew him, but he was my mom Eliza Jacobs’ half brother,” Fritz Gunlik, who was named after John’s brother, said.
“Whenever I’d hear his voice, I’d hear him say, ‘if I was rich, I’d have somebody pick berries for me. Yeah, that’s him: always funny, always joking, always smiling, always teasing,” Gunlik said.
Some shared memories, but wished to remain anonymous.
“Dan Rather was 60 Minutes, but we have our own 60 Minutes, and he knows it. John Rather, KYUK, 60 Minutes. He always used to get a crack outta that. He was such a good character,” the man said.
“Even if I’m having a gloomy day, listening to him, he’d make me laugh and I’d feel so much better, so he makes my day,” Teresa Slats said, adding, “I’m gonna miss him.”
Joli Morgan worked on “Tundra Terror Theater” with John, coming up with creative ways to introduce the movies.
“And John came up with the idea of a man-eating tree in Bethel. So we really sort of hyped that, and then we took the cameras out and we found a tree and John began to eat it,” Morgan said. “He was a very creative person.”
“I’m glad he started ‘Ketvarrluku,’ the talk shows,” Ruth Evon said. “That was really good. You know, a lot of wisdom came out of that and from the elders. It’s good to have known him and he won’t be forgotten.”
In memory of our colleague, elder, and friend, John Active.
In partnership with Bethel Community Services Foundation, KYUK has put together a Memorial Scholarship in honor of John Active’s legacy, which will be awarded to a college student with “social ties to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta” who is working toward a degree in journalism, indigenous language, multimedia, or communications.