PORT HARDY – A strong voice for the North Island has been silenced.
Former North Island Gazette editor Peter Paterson died in his sleep Feb. 12 at the age of 80.
Mr. Paterson was a man of many talents and worked in a variety of occupations but journalism was his passion, says his daughter Becky Deans, who worked by his side at the Gazette.
Mr. Paterson was born in Victoria, but after studying the arts at the University of Victoria and the University of B.C. and travelling around North America, he turned to journalism at McGill University and served as editor of the McGill Daily.
In 1953 he married Elin, who he met while at McGill.
In 1956 the family moved to Toronto where Mr. Paterson worked for the CBC.
“He would sell radio plays to the CBC when we needed money,” said Deans. “He started as a stage hand and moved his way up.”
In 1964 he became production manager for the CBC public affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days.
Wanting to escape the city and return to the land, the Patersons returned to Vancouver Island in 1971. They rented a house in Quatsino and Mr. Paterson worked at Utah Mines, running the pumps in the pit and earning the nickname Peter Pumper, says Deans.
In 1974 Mr. Paterson was hired on at the North Island Gazette as a reporter; a year later he was named editor. For the next 10 years Mr. Paterson gave voice to the concerns of the booming North Island.
Most memorable were his provocative weekly column In Left Field, and his tenacious determination to shame the provincial government into putting the highway through to Port Hardy. Dubbed the “Carrot Campaign” because the highway was dangled as an election promise several times, Mr. Paterson kept the issue in the news until the highway was completed. A wooden carrot marks the accomplishment at the end of the road, at the waterfront in Port Hardy.
During Mr. Paterson’s tenure as editor, the Gazette won many prestigious awards including best all-around newspaper in the Canada in 1977. When Mr. Paterson heard the news he took the whole staff, more than a dozen people, to the award ceremony in Vancouver. Other awards over the years included best editorial, best advertising campaign, best Christmas edition and community service.
During this time Elin and the family operated three stores in Thunderbird Mall. When they closed in 1984, the family moved to Halifax where Mr. Paterson went to work for a community newspaper.
In 1989 Mr. Paterson partnered with former Gazette owner Roland Shanks to produce the Food and Drink News and work as a freelance writer.
In 2001, the Patersons returned to Port Hardy this time to start a newspaper in competition with the North Island Gazette, the MidCoast Beacon. Former Gazette reporter and editor Bruce Winfield, who was trained by Mr. Paterson, was editor of the new publication.
The MidCoast Beacon closed in 2002 but Mr. Paterson didn’t stop writing.
“He was brilliant,” said Deans, who added her father loved literature, poetry, history, philosophy and the arts. “He never wrote his book; he wanted to. There are still tons of manuscripts that were never finished. He always had something on the go.”