BARAGA - It was his voice that made him known to thousands of people throughout the Copper Country, but to those who knew Erick Awonohopay, he was so much more.
"Bigg E," as he was known to many, passed away Tuesday at the age of 40 at Marquette General Hospital after battling a series of health problems.
"He was a big character, just full of life," said Stan Spruce, human resources clerk/assistant at Ojibwa Casino, who knew Awonohopay on a personal and professional level. "... How could you not like the guy? His personality, once you talked to him, you liked him, and you had a friend for life."
Bigg E spent 10 years as a disc jockey for Eagle Radio, and he also served as an emcee for Keweenaw Bay Indian Community powwows, with Spruce sometimes being co-emcee.
"He had an excellent voice for radio," Spruce said. "He was really, really good, and he's going to be missed."
Awonohopay, born Jan. 23, 1973, in Albany, Minn., graduated from Menominee High School in 1993 and attended Bay Mills Community College. He worked in many casinos as a dealer, in addition to his more recent role as a radio deejay.
He was a member of Menominee Nation and a Big Drum member. As a gifted lead singer for Summer Cloud Drum, he traveled to many Pow wows and served as the voice for many community ceremonies.
"Just when you thought you'd seen everything Erick had, all of a sudden he'd be emceeing here or drumming there," said Mark Wilcox, Daily Mining Gazette managing editor, who worked with Awonohopay at Eagle Radio. "He was a multi-talented individual whose loss will be felt.
"... He was an asset to not only the KBIC, but really to the Upper Peninsula in general."
Surviving are his wife Christine and their children Raistlin, Donovin, Naethin, Kamerin and Ethin Awonohopay, all of Baraga; father Richard Awonohopay of Bowler, Wis.; mother-in-law Debbie Williamson of Baraga; 11 siblings; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Traditional Native American services will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at the Ceremonial Room at the Ojibwa Senior Center. His body was laid out Tuesday night and will be until the time of the service.
All family and friends are welcome to celebrate his life. A visitation will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Burial will be in the Assinins Cemetery, with Jacobson Funeral Home handling arrangements.