Tag Archives: obituaries

Montreal’s radio industry mourns Merv Williams

Merv Williams, the former producer and announcer at Standard and Astral Radio in Montreal who contributed to CHOM’s morning show and CJAD’s Trivia Show until he was axed five years ago, has died.

The news was shared on social media by his former colleagues, but the official obituary notice was published Saturday in the Ottawa Citizen.

He died Sunday, July 10 at the Ottawa Heart Institute. He was only 39.

A memorial service for Williams will be held at the Yves Légaré Funeral home at 7200 Newman Blvd. in LaSalle on Saturday, July 30 at 11 am.

I never met Williams, but he appeared to be universally liked by his colleagues. I’ll let them offer tribute through their posts here:

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Journal de Québec columnist J. Jacques Samson dies suddenly

J. Jacques Samson, a former Le Soleil National Assembly journalist who since 2004 wrote for the Journal de Québec, died suddenly on Wednesday. He was 66.

The news was broken first by his own newspaper. But since then has spread all over Quebec media. It prompted tributes from provincial politicians, big city mayors and other members of the media, business leaders, and an editorial cartoon in his honour.

The newspaper also issued a formal statement.

Being a political columnist, Samson wasn’t universally loved. In 2013 he was subject to a successful complaint to the Quebec Press Council over a column about student protests. But the list of people mourning his passing is long.

Samson’s columns, the last of which was published June 26, can be found here.

Singer/TV host Pierre Lalonde dies

Pierre Lalonde, a singer and one of the few truly bilingual TV personalities in Quebec history, has died. He was 75.

The news was announced just after noon on Wednesday in a brief press release by his agency. It does not say how he died, but he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The official obituary notice is posted here.

Lalonde hosted series like Jeunesse d’Aujourd’hui, but anglophones might remember him more for his English series like Mad Dash and the Telethon of Stars. As part of its 50th anniversary in 2011, CFCF-12 posted a full episode of the Pierre Lalonde Show on its website.

Coverage from TVA Nouvelles, The Globe and MailCTV MontrealLa Presse and TC Media. The Gazette has a gallery of photos of Lalonde and his family.

The Journal de Montréal compiles reaction from the artistic community.

Tributes from:

With Jean Lapierre’s death, Quebec media loses its chief political analyst

There wasn’t anyone as omnipresent in Quebec news media over the past decade as Jean Lapierre.

The former federal MP, who died with his wife, three siblings and two pilots as their plane crashed on approach to an airport Tuesday in les Îles de la Madeleine, parlayed his political experience into various roles as a political analyst.

While people covering all sorts of beats misuse the term “insider” to describe themselves, Lapierre was about the closest thing Quebec media had to one who had the freedom to speak his mind on political issues. And he had the sense to never claim to be a journalist, even though most of the time he was engaging in journalism.

Lapierre had a busy schedule and many clients. Daily appearances on Montreal’s 98.5 FM, Quebec City’s FM93 and 106.9 FM in Trois-Rivières, columns on several shows on TVA and LCN (Mario Dumont had a segment with him that came to an end with a tribute), a twice daily segment on CJAD (Program Director Chris Bury explains how the station kept adding his segments because of demand) and a weekly appearance on CTV Montreal. Cogeco, Quebecor and Bell Media were all sending him regular paycheques for his insight.

So it’s unsurprising that many of his media colleagues were emotional as they relayed the news of his death, from Denis Lévesque to Paul Larocque to Pierre Bruneau to Paul Arcand to Aaron Rand and Andrew Carter. There are so many tributes from media people and politicians it would be impossible to compile them all. TVA/LCN and CJAD have put together entire dossiers on Lapierre, and there are enough obituaries and written tributes to keep you reading for days.

I didn’t know Lapierre personally, and I’m starting to think I’m one of the few people in Quebec media not to be in his ever-expanding circle of friends. I have no personal anecdotes to share, beyond that one time I stood outside the Quebecor office at the National Assembly press gallery and listened to him do a segment for LCN about a budget announcement.

But I know enough about him to know that there isn’t anyone quite like him. Sure, there are other former politicians giving analysis on TV. (RDI has an entire show devoted to it.) But how many of them will give you a colourful seven-minute description of how a politician should shake hands at a campaign event? How many of them will call out BS when he sees it, even if it’s from a politician he knows as a friend?

Lapierre wasn’t perfect, and we should resist the temptation to sugar-coat his life as we summarize it. But even if he wasn’t the most objective source of information about politics, he built this air of trustworthiness because he wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it. Perhaps because of that more than anything else, he had a unique ability to clearly explain the political process, and political thinking, to Quebecers in both languages. One that will be surely missed.

And he was someone who enjoyed what he did, who was very successful at it, and made a lot of friends doing it.

We should all be so lucky.

 

Montreal Gazette loses senior manager to sudden death

Ross Teague (photo: Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette)

Ross Teague (photo: Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette)

On the copy desk of a major newspaper, like in other newsrooms, the employees have developed somewhat of an immunity to the horrors of life. On a daily basis they deal with terrible stories about people dying, whether it’s in war overseas, in a car crash in your home town, or in unusual circumstances just about anywhere. We make macabre jokes that could easily cost us our jobs if they were ever made public. Not because we don’t care about the lives lost, but because it’s how we have learned cope with the exposure without sacrificing our souls.

Ross Teague knew all about this, because he was one of us. He started working at the Montreal Gazette in 1990, and spent many nights working late putting the paper together on deadline (back when paper was the only medium, and the only deadline that counted).

By the time I got to the Gazette in 2005, Teague was a manager with a day job. In fact, he had just become the paper’s city editor, replacing the man who hired me and got poached by the Journal de Montréal before I started my first shift. Most recently, Teague was the “executive producer” of montrealgazette.com, the man responsible for everything having to do with that website.

Until Tuesday night, when he died suddenly. A heart attack, I’m told through the grapevine. He was 56.

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Former CBC journalist Ange-Aimee Woods dies suddenly

UPDATED July 9 with details of memorial service at the end, and July 28 with slideshow link.

Ange-Aimee Woods at a save-the-CBC union rally in 2009.

Ange-Aimee Woods at a save-the-CBC union rally in 2009.

Ange-Aimee Woods, who worked for CBC radio in Montreal for 10 years as a researcher, producer, journalist and occasional fill-in host before leaving for a “dream job” at Colorado Public Radio last year and then recently came back to the city, died suddenly on Wednesday of apparent heart failure. She was 41. (UPDATE July 2, 2015: A coroner’s report has declared an allergic reaction the probable cause of death.)

Obituaries have been published by CBC, The Gazette and CPR, and a more personal one from a friend. The CBC obit includes some clips from Woods, including her goodbye interview before leaving for CPR. The CBC radio show Homerun aired a tribute to her on Thursday afternoon.

CBC colleagues are shocked at the news. There was no indication that Woods had any health problems, and she was one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

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CHOM founder Geoff Stirling dies

Geoff Stirling, who founded CHOM in Montreal but is better known nationally as the eccentric owner of Newfoundland’s television superstation NTV, died on Sunday at the age of 92.

The Gazette has an obituary with Canadian Press that talks about Stirling and his Montreal connection (Presse Canadienne has another that does the same). There’s also an obit from St. John’s radio station VOCM and, of course, from NTV itself.

CHOM noted the passing on its Facebook page. Stirling started the station as CKGM-FM in 1963, back when FM radio was a novelty and few people were taking advantage of it.

I never met Stirling, so I don’t have much to add, but his reputation is larger than life. NTV was notorious for its bizarre late-night programming, and there are plenty of legends about Stirling himself making programming decisions or putting things on the air that no sane corporate owner would do today. But it wasn’t just that he was a crazy old man with lots of money. I mean, how many TV station owners have created comic book characters?

This story in The Scope gives a good rundown of some of all the things that made Stirling special.

His passing opens up a lot of questions about NTV. Will it be sold? It holds the unique distinction of being a de facto affiliate of both CTV and Global (it carries national newscasts from both networks). Either might be interested in buying it to have a Newfoundland station that carries 100% of their schedule.

Independent super stations in Canada are much less common than they used to be. Most are either owned by the networks themselves or are private stations that are affiliated with one of the major networks. Aside from the community stations, the religious stations and other special cases, there are only three independent commercial super stations, the others being CHEK in Victoria (a former E! network station that was sold to its employees and other local investors by Canwest) and CHCH in Hamilton, owned by Channel Zero. And those stations don’t have owners like Stirling.

Maybe this is truly the end of an era, when television stations were owned by one guy instead of a company with multiple shareholders, and when that one guy could just call up the station and say he wanted video of a fish tank to be played on air overnight.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. That NTV programming wasn’t exactly award-winning stuff. But it still feels as though a piece of the past has slipped away.

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Obituaries for former CKAC morning man Jacques Proulx

Jacques Proulx, who was the morning host on CKAC radio for two decades, died on Saturday at 78 years old. He was well before my time, so I’ll leave it to others to do proper obituaries. Here’s what I’ve found online:

And a tribute video from 98.5FM:

Radio personality Greg Hébert dies

It’s been almost a decade since he left Montreal for a job at CFRA in Ottawa, but Montreal radio personalities who were around back then are remembering Greg Hébert, who used to work at CHOM and CKGM.

Hébert died Thursday night after a long and heavily-mediatized battle with cancer.

He started his radio career in Montreal as a producer for the CHOM morning show of Pete Marier and Andrew Carter in 1999. After two years, he went to what was then sister station CKGM (Team 990) and produced for the afternoon show of Joey Elias and Tony Marinaro, also working as a sports reporter and weekly show host.

But he’s better known in Ottawa, where he was the host and producer of a nightly business show on CFRA radio, and a business reporter for A Channel (now CTV Two). He left for medical reasons after getting a diagnosis of synovial sarcoma in 2009.

His former colleagues in Montreal posted remembrances on social media.

From Pete Marier:

Sad News today, Greg Hebert passed away last night. He worked as a producer for “Pete and Andrew” on CHOM back in 2001. To his wife Lauren: Greg had outstanding qualities. Chief among them were his honesty, courage, determination and quit wit. These equipped him to rise quickly as a broadcaster and to become one of the bravest persons I’ve ever met.

Know that he touched a lot of people this way, and I’ll always be proud to call him my Friend. Pete Marier.

From Nat Lauzon:

Rest in peace, Greg Hébert, the bravest soul I ever encountered. A husband, son, friend, fighter. And to many like me – a teacher. Join Team Greggybear and read his incredible legacy. A gift to everyone fighting for their very lives against a horrible disease. Thank you Greg. xx

From Tony Marinaro:

There were far more from his colleagues in Ottawa.

Obituaries have been published in the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, CTV News Ottawa and CFRA. They’re well done and I encourage you to read them.

After getting his cancer diagnosis, Hébert decided to go public about his cancer fight. He started up a charitable foundation and wrote a blog. The last post written by him is dated a month ago.

Hébert leaves behind his wife Lauren, who announced after he died that she is pregnant.

A funeral for Hébert will be held on Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. at Hulse, Playfair & McGarry Central Chapel, 315 McLeod St. in Ottawa.

Broadcaster Kathy Coulombe dies

Kathy Coulombe, a long-time broadcaster with CKO, CJAD, CHOM and Radio Canada International, died this weekend of lymphoma lung cancer.

The first news came from another veteran broadcaster, Jim Connell, in an email to the Radio in Montreal group. Those who worked with her quickly offered condolences via social media.

Obituaries have been posted by The Gazette, CJAD, CBC, RCI and Presse Canadienne, and already one blog post has gone up from Howie Silbiger with an anecdote about how they met.

I never met Coulombe, so I’ll just let other people’s memories speak for themselves:

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Eulogy for Neil McKenty: “one the most complicated and interesting men who ever lived”

I received this from Daniel Freedman. He’s a former news director at CFCF-12 and produced McKenty Live, the TV call-in show starring his friend Neil McKenty, who died a week ago. He also delivered a eulogy at McKenty’s funeral on Saturday, which he wanted to share. It’s republished here with his permission.

Some people make a difference in the world.

Neil McKenty was one of those people.

Though he often led a troubled life himself, Neil ended up making the world a better place. That’s because he touched so many lives.

Mine was one of them.

I’m Daniel Freedman. Like so many others, I grew up listening to Neil on CJAD. Neil was more than special. He was unique. Nobody did a call-in show like Neil. His gift went beyond putting his fierce intellect to work in building bridges…at a time when so many others were trying to blow them up.

Neil actually listened. He could get politicians to actually think on the air…and say something unexpected and newsworthy. And he could get callers to open up about the most intimate details of their lives. And it’s all because he listened. And because he cared.

Life’s rich pageant unfolds in unexpected ways. One day in 1987, I was surprised to find myself in my boss’s office at CFCF Television, meeting Neil for the first time.

The meeting was to discuss the possibility of reviving Neil’s program for television. The boss in question was Don McGowan, who in his inimitable style saw fit to begin the meeting with the following question: “So Father McKenty … do you still consider yourself a good Catholic?” As my mouth dropped open, Neil remained unfazed. “Yes,” he instantly replied, “I do consider myself a good Catholic……in my own way.”

Mr. McGowan was reduced to silence – the first and last time I ever saw that happen.

The program went ahead and I became the producer. Mr. McGowan, in his largesse, made the grandiose gesture of sending a limousine to pick Neil up each morning. But since this is Montreal… and not Hollywood …the so-called limousine turned out to be a very big…. but very old and very noisy… Cadillac. And since I lived near Neil, this ridiculous vehicle also stopped to pick me.

On the first morning Neil said to me: “This is really a bit much.” He was embarrassed. I later learned that Neil had once turned down a suite at a hotel. The suite was to have been his reward for speaking at conference. But Neil was embarrassed at the fuss. He asked for a regular room instead.

That was Neil. He hated pretence. And he hated hypocrisy. I saw him show the same respect for a make-up artist, stagehand or waitress that he showed for a professor or prime minister.

Neil’s idea of a good time was dinner and dancing with Catharine at the Rib and Reef Restaurant….not exactly the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf Astoria.

Neil once told me: “I’ve made many mistakes in my life. But I got one thing right. I married Catharine. I’m the luckiest guy alive.”
I long ago concluded Neil was one the most complicated and interesting men who ever lived.

For much of his life, Neil wrestled with demons. But throughout it all, and behind the sometimes formidable exterior, Neil also had a great gift for friendship. Neil valued his friends from a Laurentian ski lodge…whose history he later wrote with Catharine.

Neil also had a great capacity for mentorship. I worked on Neil’s program with two exceptional colleagues: Joan Takefman and Wendy Helfenbaum. We called our team “Three Jews And A Jesuit” and kept threatening to get T-shirts printed.

You never knew what to expect from Neil. He could be funny….he could be demanding…he could be endearing…and, Lord knows, he could be exasperating – all in the same conversation.

For a time, Neil shared a tiny, glassed-in office with Dick Irvin. But he seemed to have bionic ears, perhaps acquired during his tenure as a teacher in the Jesuits. Neil had an uncanny ability to overhear what we were saying and correct our many errors of logic from afar – all in that booming voice so familiar to everyone.

But we always knew that Neil cared about us.

Neil cared about a lot of things. He cared about the truth. He cared about humanity. He cared about the church, with which he was so often at odds.

On one occasion, an author who had written a book critical of the church was a guest on the program. To my astonishment, Neil took her to task. His criticism was that somewhere along the road of criticizing the Vatican she had taken a detour to invent her own religion. Neil thought that was cheating.

So life with Neil was never dull. He ate ice cream on the air with one of the founders of Ben and Jerry’s – with great gusto, but very little elegance. Earlier in his career, when asked to comment on the Pope’s visit to Montreal Neil uttered the immortal words: “I’m having an ecclesiastical orgasm.” Who else could have gotten away with it?

On one occasion, we experienced every producer’s nightmare: multiple, simultaneous and catastrophic technical failures while live on air. Neil was left utterly alone on a single camera with no capability of talking to guests or callers. Most broadcasters would have melted down under the pressure.

But not Neil. Talking — and arguing — was never a problem for him. If he had to argue with himself … well, that just made it more fun. So Neil ad-libbed for almost 15 minutes, making such perfect sense that some viewers thought it had all been planned.

One thing stands out above all else. Above all, Neil was always interested in justice.

I’m sure Neil is already in heaven. And I suspect he’s already fighting to make it a better place, arguing that too many people are excluded and it’s too unfair.

After all, Neil always fought the good fight. Why would he stop now?

Former CJAD broadcaster Neil McKenty dies

Neil McKenty, the former broadcaster and author, died early on Saturday.

McKenty’s broadcasting career was before my time, far enough that I can’t really add anything insightful to the obits already done about him today:

McKenty’s blog, where he did most of his writing recently, has been updated with a note announcing his death and giving funeral information.

If you want to get an idea what he was like, you can watch an episode of McKenty Live, put on CFCF’s website last year as part of its 50th anniversary.

UPDATE (May 21): McKenty Live’s producer, Daniel Freedman, shares a eulogy he delivered at McKenty’s funeral.

Gazette’s cryptic crossword maker Alan Lee dies

Many years ago, I witnessed family members of a friend of mine doing the cryptic crossword in The Gazette. I don’t remember how it worked. I don’t think I understood how it worked (and I still don’t). I just remember that for these puzzle addicts it was one of the things they did.

Alan Lee has been doing The Gazette’s weekly cryptic crossword since 1994. But his name soon won’t be gracing the weekly puzzles page anymore. Lee died suddenly on Friday at the age of 81.

Reporter Catherine Solyom has an obituary for Lee in Saturday’s paper, a brief glimpse into the life of the man behind the black and white squares and list of clues. He’ll be remembered at a special gathering at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Friday.

But what of the puzzle, which last Saturday published No. 938? There are some still in the bank, which will take us to April. But after that, it’s still not clear. Maybe his daughter will take it up. Maybe someone else. Or maybe they’ll replace it with another puzzle. Either way, there’s going to be a change.

Jack Layton front pages

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would make the front pages of the papers on Tuesday. Not only was Jack Layton a larger-than-life figure, and the first leader of the opposition to die in office since Wilfrid Laurier in 1919 (at least, that’s what Wikipedia says), but he conveniently died early on a weekday morning, giving newspaper editors a full working day to decide how they would honour him on their front pages.

The Globe and Mail (above) got a lot of buzz on Twitter, but it wasn’t the only one to use a sketch of Layton, and certainly not the only one to quote from the end of his letter to Canadians, as you’ll see below. Different papers chose different file photos, but the headlines of his obituary were written by Layton himself. (Maybe with some help from a talented speechwriter.)

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Ted Tevan is gone

Ted Tevan, one of Montreal’s talk radio greats, inconveniently died on Friday night, the time when statistically news has its smallest impact. Though it might have taken a few days, his colleagues and others have taken notice and offered their thoughts and stories.

I never met Tevan myself, so I have nothing to add, but I wanted to compile everything in one place.

Gabriel Morency talked quite a bit on his show Monday about Tevan. Mitch Melnick also devoted his show on Tuesday to Tevan (clips are posted here and will be aired again on Saturday), with interviews with people like Aaron Rand, Dickie Moore, Mitch Garber, Bill Brownstein and a bunch of other people I’m too young to remember.

Tevan’s funeral was Wednesday at 1pm at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon St. W. CTV’s Cindy Sherwin was there.