The community of Hay River, N.W.T., is mourning the loss of the Rev. Georgina Bassett, who was ordained in 2012, becoming the first Anglican priest of Slavey descent in the Anglican Church of Canada. She died on July 8 of breast cancer at the age of 58.
Bassett was a member of the K’atlodeeche First Nation. The Slavey are Dene people of the MacKenzie River basin.
The Rev. Vivian Smith, priest at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Hay River, knew Bassett for 12 years and witnessed the growth of her commitment to the church.
Smith first came to Hay River as a lay minister. At that time, she said, Bassett had already rekindled her childhood connection to the church through an Alpha course. “That was what started her out wondering what life is about, what she wanted to do and how she could do it,” Smith said. When Bassett learned that the church wanted more lay ministers, she asked Smith about it but was also asking, “What would people say about an Indian being a lay minister?” Smith says she assured Bassett that “God takes anyone who is willing to carry the gospel.” From that day on, she said, Bassett wanted to pursue lay ministry.
Later, Bassett decided she wanted to be a deacon; she was ordained one in 2009. “She was a powerhouse for God,” said Smith. She told her personal story to everyone… how she met Christ and how he became part of her life.”
Bassett was ordained as a priest in 2012. She also devoted herself to running the Anglican-affiliated Hay River Thrift Shop, which sells gently used clothing and other household items. “She spent hours and hours and hours at that thrift shop, even when she was sick, even when she was taking her treatment,” said Smith.
Smith said she would like to see it renamed Georgina’s Place, in honour of her friend, who was named Hay River’s Citizen of the Year in 2011 for the many ways she served the community. Smith promised Bassett that she would reorganize the thrift shop once Bassett’s illness made it impossible for her to continue her work there.
“I went to the businesses in town and they are giving us the paint,” said Smith. “Volunteers are going in to paint it, we’re putting in all new carpet and we’re going to have a grand opening on Georgina’s birthday, Sept. 28. She said she’ll be looking down [on us] that day.”
Smith said Bassett also dreamed of reopening the Anglican church on the local reserve, which had fallen out of use and then was wrecked by ice several years ago.
Bassett was co-owner of Bassett Petroleum with her husband, Steve Bassett, who survives her, along with their four sons and daughters-in-laws and seven grandchildren.