Yukon musician Nicole Edwards
Obituary submitted by Sue Libenson
September 16, 2021
(September 14, 1970 – September 8, 2021)
Nicole Edwards, musician, community organizer, and long-time friend to many in Haines, passed away at her home in the Yukon last week.
Nicole lived a life of open-hearted positivity, seeing the beauty and humanity in each person she met. She was able to make a person of any age, ability or background feel important and heard. She shone brightly in her love of music, nature and children and was a dedicated 'Joy Seeker'.
Raised in South River, Ontario, by a group of strong women with her mother at the core, Nicole discovered early that art and community flourished together; by the time she was a teenager, she was an organizer as well as a performer. Her passion grew through travel, university and an eventual move to the Yukon in 1997. Here, she founded B.Y.T.E (Bringing Youth Towards Equality) and inspired a generation of Yukon youth to 'Be the change' – work that would earn her a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General. She was also a founding member of Yukon Women in Music. The release of her first original album in 2001 coincided with a diagnosis of scleroderma.
With her husband Lee Close at her side, Nicole learned to adapt to chronic fatigue and pain. Her prime vocation remained community service through the arts, supporting and mentoring other musicians. She delighted blurring genres in her own music, always staying true to her voice with titles like 'Love, Serve and Uplift' and 'Apathy is Boring'. She found particular joy in performing and recording in French and Spanish, and was recognized in the book 'Franchir l'espace, la musique de l'Ouest et du Nord canadiens'.
Nicole was a regular performer at the Southeast Alaska State Fair, inspired many novice Haines musicians, and played for a Haines Hospice fundraiser. She met her husband, former Haines resident Lee Close, at the Frostbite Music Festival in Whitehorse. Some of her music videos featured Haines locations as well as appearances from Haines friends including a young Klover Cinnoco and Haines' Geppeto's Junkyard puppets.
In 2017, Nicole performed a benefit concert that would be her last. As her symptoms progressed and life became increasingly difficult, she continued to serve, advocating for trauma-informed, person-centred care and generating a repertoire of songs and resources for mindfulness education.
Thanks to the advocacy of those who came before, Nicole was able to obtain Medical Assistance in Dying after years of suffering. She chose to end her journey beneath her favourite aspens in her garden in Mount Lorne, Yukon. She was surrounded by flowers and symbols of people she loved. She was pre-deceased by her father, Don Edwards. She is survived by her husband Lee Close, mother Margaret Edwards, sister Laurel Lamb (Doug Lamb) and brother Richard Edwards (Suzanne Jackson).
For those wishing to remember Nicole, please share her music and mindfulness resources (www.nicoleedwardsmusic.com). Donations may be made to B.Y.T.E.'s leadership fund.