My parents called to give me the sad news that another one of our Elders in Attawapiskat had passed away. Josephine (Wesley) Wheesk was an important part of the fabric that makes up the community. She was never chief or a political leader but still managed in her way to contribute much to Attawapiskat. All of us have been touched in some way by the life of Josephine. Everyone of us as family, friend or neighbour have felt the love, the devotion and the spirituality that made Josephine a big influence in our lives and in the community of Attawapiskat.

In her 84 years Josephine always put others first and chipped in to lend a hand to family and friends when it was needed. Many of us learned much of what we know about our beliefs through the direction and teaching of Josephine. Although she never had children of her own it was her gift in life to care for other people’s children when the need was there. She loved children and devoted much time to our family as well as many others in the community.
Many of our Elders remember Josephine for the times she would come to stay with the women while their husbands were out on the land hunting or trapping for long periods. She was there for many mothers and helped take care of the children and make the time easier. We all have our own warm memories of Josephine who went out of her way to attend baptisms, confirmations, weddings and many other of our important days. This strong woman was there for all of us time after time and she demonstrated a good role model to everyone.

After her husband Onasim passed away in 1982 she kept up with her good work in the community and when tragedy or crisis struck, Josephine was there to comfort and even more to help out in all of our times of need. Many who knew her recall the firm but also gentle kindness Josephine gave us and of course many of us remember the treats she would pass out. Her home was always a safe and tidy place that she made open to those in need.

Josephine is a part of the history of Attawapiskat. She worked for many years in assisting the management of the Hudson Bay store and she worked long and hard. Many of us will recall Josephine as an organized person who knew how to live a good life. My mom Susan tells me that Josephine was the first one in the community to afford many of the luxuries in the early years like a cranking turntable that played music and she always seemed to be bringing new things to Attawapiskat.

Some people think it was a sad thing that Josephine had no children of her own. In First Nation communities up the coast people are seen differently if they have not produced children. I believe we are all here for a reason and that we all bring our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Josephine by the mere fact that she had no children of her own turned her good will, love and care to children who were in need in the community. Our lives have been made a little easier with the help of Josephine and she will be missed.