Wilfred Cyr of Pendleton, Oregon was born on July 1, 1955, in Nagaajiwanaang First Nation, (Northwest Bay) Ontario, and entered into eternal rest on August 22, 2022, at St. Anthony’s hospital in Pendleton, Oregon.
Wil was born to Roderick and Lucy (Smith) Cyr, but would also be loved and walked through life by the Treftlin family of Ontario.
A true Canadian, he played hockey throughout his early life. Before there were street lights in Nagaajiwanaang, he remembers making his own hockey sticks and using a crushed can for a hockey puck. Despite these humble beginnings, Wil would eventually play college hockey for Rainy River Community College in International Falls, Minn. Through his life, Wil worked as a firefighter, earned a black belt in karate, and won trophies in ice racing.
Wil was married to Elsie (Cloud) Cyr for seventeen years before he was unexpectedly widowed in 1998. He was a devoted husband and a man of Christian faith who would spend hours studying the Holy Bible throughout his life.
Wil was highly intellectual and had many years devoted to education. As a fluent speaker of Ojibwe language, he would devote his life to sharing and teaching the language. Wil studied extensively throughout his life and earned multiple degrees in his lifetime – Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts, Rainy River Community College, in International Falls, Minnesota, 1977; Bachelor of Arts Degree, Major in American-Indian Studies, Minor in Ojibwe/Anishinaabe Language, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minnesota, 1981; Bachelor of Science Degree, Major in Community Service, Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Minor in Agency Management-Business Administration, Bemidji State University, 1987; and he was a Candidate for Master of Science in Professional Education, Bemidji State University. Wil also obtained his Minnesota K-12 teaching certification for American Indian Language and Culture.
Wil served in many leadership positions throughout his prestigious career – Education Director, Grand Council Treaty Three, Kenora, Ont.; Treasurer of the Council of Indian Students at Bemidji State University; Member of the Ontario Indian Education Council; Band Council Member of the Nagaajiwanaang First Nation; Guest Lecturer, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Duluth, Minn.; Adjunct Instructor, University of Wisconsin-Superior, Superior, Wisconsin; Adjunct Instructor, Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, Minn.; Full-Time Tenured Faculty, Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College, Cloquet, Minnesota; First Nation Chairman/Chief, Nagaajiwanaang First Nation, Ont.; Part-Time Faculty, Sir Sanford Fleming College, Extension Program, Peterborough, Ont.; General Session Lecturer, The Saskatchewan Indigenous Federated College, Northern campus & Extension Departments, Division of Rainy Lake Ojibwe Education Authority, Fort Frances; Anishinaabe Language Coordinator; Rainy Lake Ojibwe Education Authority, Fort Frances; Director of Educational Support Services; The Seven Generations Educational Institute, Fort Frances; Subject-Specific Expert Panel, Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, Toronto, Ontario; Adjunct Instructor, Red Lake Nation College, Red Lake, Minnesota; Adjunct Professor, Bemidji State University; Upward Bound Program Instructor, Bemidji State University; Full-Time Faculty, Leech Lake Tribal College, Cass Lake, Minnesota; Adjunct Instructor, Red Lake Nation College; Adjunct Instructor, White Earth Tribal and Community College, Mahnomen, Minnesota; Academic Dean, Red Lake Nation College; Interim President, Red Lake Nation College; and lastly, as a General Education Diploma Instructor for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, in Pendleton, Oregon.
Wil had received the awards of Distinguished Lecturer Series, University of Toronto, and the Exemplary Service Award, Minnesota Indian Education Association. Wil faithfully served as a mentor and spiritual advisor to Indigenous inmates at Minnesota Correctional Facilities in Moose Lake and Stillwater Minnesota. Wil was a devoted instructor who lectured others about understanding the etymology of word origins and using appropriate and positive connotative terms of self-identification among his people. He believed in and promoted the term “Indigenous” as opposed to other terms of self-identity such as “tribal” or “native” due to the root word meanings such as “unlearned” or “savage.” He would often correct those who used the term “Indian,” explaining, “We are not Hindu.” He believed in the power of words and carefully chose to speak words of life.
Wil was united in marriage to Dorothy Barkley on January 6, 2001, in Fort Frances, Ontario. They were blessed with a son, Zechariah Cyr on August 13, 2001. Wil was a proud father to his inherited sons, Charles and Shane Wood. He loved and exemplified Christ in the home. He always kept everyone in high spirits with his lighthearted demeanor and latest jokes. Wil was considered the “King of one-liners.” Wil was also a wise counselor to many who knew him for his patience to hear others out and kindly offer sound advice. He earned his name “Wil the Thrill” from his poker games which were a favorite pastime while providing a thrilling challenge. Wil was an avid golf player as well as poker analyst, and was always studying to master both of these passions. Wil was a lover of classic country music and even picked up playing the harmonica and guitar most of his years. He loved traveling and his most memorable trip was visiting Israel and Cairo. As a devout believer in the Christian faith, he marveled in visiting the places where Jesus lived. Wil was baptized in the Jordan River while visiting Israel, and this was a cherished memory in his life.
Wil was challenged with diabetes in his final years but never wavered in his Christian faith. He remained steadfast in his studies and ministry through social media continuing to teach and profess the gospel of Jesus Christ. Due to his unrelenting faith Wil was prepared for his passing. He asked to be buried in Oregon to be near his beloved wife and family. Wil also expressed his desire for others to celebrate his life rather than mourn. “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:21.
Wil is survived by his loving wife of twenty-one years, Dorothy Cyr of Pendleton; his children Charles (Nikki) Wood of Pilot Rock, Shane (Tessa) Wood of Mission, and Zech (Cheyenne Eby) Cyr of Pendleton. Wil was preceded in death by his parents Roderick and Lucy Cyr; sister Mabel Cyr; sister Mary Jourdain; brother Buddy Cyr; and brother Norman Cyr.
A rosary was held on Wednesday, August 24, at 7:00 p.m. at Burns Mortuary in Pendleton, and funeral services were held on Thursday, August 25, at 9:00 a.m. at St. Andrews Mission in Mission, Oregon.