It’s one of those mysteries of life.
You meet someone and you become friends.
In my case it was Allan Fotheringham, a Canadian journalist par excellence.
I was a young business reporter, 26 years old, at The Vancouver Sun, a recent arrival from the now defunct Winnipeg Tribune.
Fotheringham, a star columnist at The Vancouver Sun.
My beat, covering the Vancouver Stock Exchange and the mining industry, synonymous with endless scams, self-serving promoters, bent on fleecing the investing public.
And they did in droves – a great fodder for endless stories.
The VSE, the Wild West of investing, where everything was legit, fair game. propagated by a cast of characters straight out of central casting.
I started writing about the scammers and grifters.
He used to come over to my little corner of the newsroom, complimenting me on my efforts.
It got to the point where we would talk and talk.
Talking led to becoming great personal friends.
I saw him as someone witty, smart, perceptive, analytical with a great wry sense of humour.
Our friendship reached point where we would see each other socially.
His nickname for me, Georgie, one that has stuck with me to this day.
And now one of the great icons in Canadian journalism has passed.
It happened last year.
He was 87, two weeks short of his 88th. birthday..
Fotheringham, a journalist, a raconteur, a man with a great wicked sense of humour, a man, merciless in poking fun at the pretensions and self importance of Canada’s great and near great.
But he was also a kind, considerate and caring man.
And while his columns were mainly known for their acerbic, often barbed, approach he would also write in poignant and memorable ways about everyday Canadians, Canadians who made a difference, Canadians who overcame all odds, Canadians who triumphed in the face of adversity.
Dr. Foth, as he called himself, was special, unique, smart as a whip and a connoisseur of the finer things in life.
We had great times together.
He was an endless charmer.
Whenever, he met Linda, my wife, he would say, “Ah the lovely Linda, why did you marry him of all people.”
We also just enjoyed each other’s company, talking about the world, the state of journalism, etc.
He also was my mentor.
And when I became business editor of the paper I was only 28 years old.
That appointment breaking a tradition of editors being much older and having worked at the paper much longer, before being promoted.
So when the position of business editor became open it was Dr. Foth who suggested I apply.
I was reluctant but he pushed and so I did and lo, behold, I got the job.
Years later, I learned from Stuart Keate, the paper’s publisher it was Allan who urged him (the two relied upon each other) to make me business editor, something Keate said he did reluctantly but did so at Allan’s insistence.
I had no idea.
But I wasn’t the only one Allan mentored.
There were others.
And whenever there was a vacancy in the business department Allan often would make suggestions as to who should be hired.
Georgie he would say, hire bright young people, forget about the old farts.
And I did.
It was Allan who suggested I write a column – I did.
And it ended up being one of the best-read columns in the paper.
His advice about the column was simple – never ever be impressed about the high and the mighty in the business world, they are just people like all of us.
I write all of this not because I am bragging, but rather to give you a measure of the man.
Others have written about his great journalism, his great column writing.
I, however, am recounting the man, the mentor, the friend, because I knew him so well.
Allan it was a privilege, an honour, to be your friend.