NEW WATERFORD, N.S. -- Cape Breton's 'Men of the Deeps' are mourning the loss of one of their strongest voices.

Yogi Muise, who was 85, was a member of the singing miners' choir for more than 50 years.

He's also being remembered as a teacher, a volunteer, a gentle giant, and a community icon in New Waterford.

Stephen Muise is Yogi Muise's youngest son. He is also the business manager for the singing miners- a role passed down by his dad.

He says Yogi first joined the men of the deeps in 1969 and was an active member right up until his death from melanoma on Thursday.

He attended his last practice with the group on July 13.

"Yogi's a great loss to our family…our extended family … and of course, the Men of the Deeps," says Stephen Muise.

"Everybody remembers Yogi as a gentle teddy bear. He had a loving punch. He'd throw one at your shoulder and it would knock you over but he'd pick you up at the same time."

Fellow choir member Nipper MacLeod says his friend was a gentle giant.

"Well, Yogi was a big presence wherever he went," says Macleod.

"Although powerful, he was gentle, and he had the proper name – Yogi, named after a bear. He was a teddy bear, but he was also a grizzly bear and when he was defending the Men of the Deeps, he was a grizzly bear."

While his time with the Men of the Deeps took him all over the world, Yogi was a community icon in his home of New Waterford.

He was an original board member for the famed Coal Bowl basketball tournament and served for years as the event's media director.

He was also a teacher in his hometown for more than 30 years.

Mickey MacIntyre of the Men of the Deeps, remembers Yogi as an infectious personality who brought people together.

"A brother… a pioneer… a great friend," says MacIntyre

"Anytime (there was) somebody new on the bus, Yogi would be down teaching them how to play Tarabish, we even had Rita MacNeil in the game."

With the group set to get back into swing post-pandemic, they say not having Yogi around will be a big loss.

"It's going to be tough to look around and not have that big, bass voice and his big presence," says MacLeod.

"Don't know how we're going to fill his shoes, but he would want his legacies to continue. So when we talk about the Men of the Deeps, we're ready to go for another 50 years," says Muise.

The family says Yogi Muise's funeral will be livestreamed online on Monday.