Never afraid to tell it like it is


Frank Laverne, (Vern) Tordoff liked to soak up the rays on a warm day. Tordoff died on Dec. 14, 2012.
photo courtesy of Ken Tordoff

Known to his family, former colleagues and residents as more than a straight shooter and hard worker, Hay River and the North bid a sad goodbye to Frank Laverne (Vern) Tordoff last month.

Tordoff was perhaps best known in Hay River for his time on town council serving as a councillor and deputy mayor for almost two decades, according to town records, from 1988-2005 – a total of six terms. 

On Dec. 14, he died of cancer in Yellowknife, where he had lived for the past year and a half.

He passed away in his big easy chair,” said son Rod Tordoff of Yellowknife.

Born on April 25, 1932, in London, Ont., Vern Tordoff moved to Hay River in 1975.

Earlier in his life, he served as an aircraft mechanic with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He moved west after meeting his wife in the service. After living in Red Deer and Grande Prairie, they decided to move north.

Tordoff initially moved north to run the General Motors franchise Hay River Motors. When that car dealership closed in the mid 1980s, coinciding with the closure of Pine Point Mine, he continued to run KT Bus Services and worked in Corrections for 10 years.

Plus, he was the father to four boys – Rod, Ken, Doug and Tom.

Tordoff is also remembered as an astute businessman and politician, especially for the way he conducted himself inside council chambers.

He was never afraid to tell you what he thought,” said Rod Tordoff. “There was never a question of where you stood with him. I think a lot of people appreciated that about him.”

For example, Tordoff was the only council member to vote against the building of the current aquatic centre. 

He wasn’t afraid to vote against what was popular if he thought it was right,” said Rod Tordoff. “A good politician might tell everyone what they wanted to hear, but if he thought he was right, he wasn’t afraid to say it. There was not a phony bone in his body.”

Son Ken Tordoff of Hay River echoed those sentiments, noting his father became involved in local politics to keep taxes low and because he felt compelled to change the way town business was handled.

He tended to piss people off, but he kept getting elected,” his son said. “I think he only lost one election and that was when he ran for mayor. He was always pretty straightforward. He calls things like he sees them and takes no BS from anyone.”

Vern Tordoff was also an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion, where he was a past president and an honorary lifetime member.

Tordoff was married for almost 60 years to his wife, Sylvia, who predeceased him.

He lived in Hay River until moving to Yellowknife in 2011, and spent a total of 37 years in the NWT.

My mum wouldn’t leave,” said Rod Tordoff. “He liked it up here, too. They both golfed and spent summers at the golf course, even though they went south for one month in the winter. It was home.”

— Angele Cano