Yellowknifer Cartoonist Was Also Pilot, RCMP Officer
by BK Munn
Cartoonist Norm Muffitt, known by the pen-name “Bush”, has died in Edmonton after suffering from brain and lung cancer. He was 69.
Muffitt was the cartoonist for several northern newspapers beginning in 1972. He provided political cartoons for the Yellowknifer, News/North, Nunavut News, Inuvik Drum, Deh Cho Drum, the Fort Saskatchewan Record, and the German-language The Albertaner.
Muffitt is survived by his wife, Peggy, and daughter Jen Jones, also a cartoonist.
As reported by the Yellowknifer/Northern News Service:
Muffitt’s cartoons have been generating chuckles, guffaws, and sometimes fits of blood-boiling rage for nearly 40 years, ever since a chance encounter at a stationery store in 1972 between himself and Jack “Sig” Sigvaldason, publisher of the newly christened newspaper. That led to a tentative offer of employment, providing editors could keep his identity under wraps.
For Muffitt was not just a burgeoning illustrator and satirist, he was also an RCMP officer – a member of the elite Air Services Branch, which he joined in 1966. As an RCMP pilot, Muffitt traversed the sparsely populated North, picking up prisoners, flying around dignitaries, shuttling officers between detachments, taking part in search and rescue missions, and bringing relief to starving Northern communities.
“While with the RCMP in the North, the identity of Norm was a closely guarded secret, although he had the approval of his officer in command subject to not being identified,” says Sigvaldason.
“Only NNSL editors were privy to his true identity.”
Muffitt’s first cartoon – showing two men staring at the RCMP detachment building and wondering where its missing logo had disappeared – appeared on page 18 in the Nov. 8, 1972 edition of Yellowknifer, sandwiched between news of Yellowknife singer Ted Wesley’s rising success and questions over what it meant to have NDPer Wally Firth represent the NWT in the House of Commons. Firth had won the seat in the federal election the week before.
That year cartoonists with Yellowknifer came and went. Yellow Connivers, a cartoon by Paul Andrews, appeared once or twice, as did a strip called the Adventures of Gus Gunge, fishing intellectual of Old Town, but Bush continued on, and as Northern News Services grew, so did Muffitt’s workload.
Up until mid-May, when he was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer, Muffitt was penning six cartoons a week for NNSL: one for each Wednesday and Friday Yellowknifer,