Treasured Inuit culture

Bishop Jack Sperry Photo: contributed
By on April 1, 2012
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The Right Rev. John (Jack) Reginald Sperry, former bishop of the Arctic, will be remembered as a spiritual mentor, linguist and lover of Inuit culture. He died Feb. 11 in Hay River, N.W.T., at age 87.

Born 1924 in Leicester, Eng., Bishop Sperry served with the Royal Navy from 1943 to 1946 before emigrating to Canada. In 1950, he moved to Kugluktuk (then Coppermine), Nunavut, where he served as a missionary for 19 years with his wife, Betty, a nurse. He was elected diocesan bishop in 1973, a position he held until he retired in 1990.

When the young Sperry first arrived in Kugluktuk, the Inuit lived a traditional life on the land and primarily spoke Inuinnaqtun. Sperry not only mastered Inuinnaqtun, he translated the Bible, prayers and hymns, and taught locals to read and write. He also led the community in building Kugluktuk’s first church.

In 2002, Bishop Sperry was named to the Order of Canada. This year he was scheduled to receive one of 60,000 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals. Survived by daughter Angela, son John, and their families, he was laid to rest in Yellowknife, beside his wife, who died in 2001.

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  • Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.