Off to the airport for flights to Toronto and Wordstock. Will watch the Bluejays play tonight with good friend Bryan Cantley.
— Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) September 19, 2008
I don’t know many people who have helped as many journalists as Bryan Cantley. Few have helped me as much.
He was a gentleman and a friend and he gave me extraordinary opportunities that boosted my journalism training business.
I first met Bryan in 2002. I was fairly new to the business of journalism training and I think I sent a pitch for my workshops to the Canadian Newspaper Association. I can’t recall whether I even had his name or sent it blindly to the group’s executive director, but somehow it ended up with the right guy.
I had just done some training for the Cariboo Press newspapers in British Columbia, and was interested in doing more work in Canada. Nick Russell, a leading Canadian voice in journalism ethics, was another speaker at the Cariboo conference and he put in a good word to me with Bryan.
Before long, Bryan invited me to train editors and reporters at a workshop of the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors in Lethbridge, Alberta, in the fall of 2002. And he helped me arrange some more workshops on the same trip at the Calgary Herald.
We quickly became friends over dinner and enjoyed many more dinners and drinks across Canada, and a few games of his beloved Toronto Blue Jays.
Bryan wore multiple hats, planning programs such as training and awards for four different journalism organizations: CNA (now Newspapers Canada), CANE, the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association and the Commonwealth Journalists Association.
Over the next six years, Bryan invited me to speak at a dozen or so conferences for three of those groups, all but the CJA. I visited Lethbridge, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Saskatoon for events that Bryan organized. I was an annual speaker — and once the keynote speaker — for five years at the Wordstock writing workshop he organized for the Ryerson alumni.
The contacts from those conferences led to lots of other business for me across Canada. Everywhere I went, I met friends of Bryan who were as fond of him as I was.
Mimi accompanied me on several of those trips and we dined several times as couples with Bryan and his wife. Eleanor showed Mimi around Toronto and they toured together in Halifax.
At the Canadian Newspaper Association conference in 2007, when Bryan was approaching retirement, his colleagues and friends in the business roasted and saluted him in a fond farewell. I enjoyed getting to see that my affection and admiration for Bryan was shared throughout Canadian journalism.
But Bryan’s retirement wasn’t really a farewell. He organized another Wordstock or two. He continued helping the CJA. On my last visit to Toronto in 2011 (at another organization’s invitation following Bryan’s semi-retirement), Mimi and I dined again with Bryan and Eleanor (the last time I saw him). He was planning a CJA program in Malta for 2012 and fretting over the details (Bryan knew that details made for a successful conference and he was a master at running a smooth and fun event).
Bryan also kept running the National Newspaper Awards program, Canada’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes. He was honored last week with the Michener-Baxter Award for his special contribution to Canadian journalism.
In one of our last email exchanges, Bryan told of visiting Hawaii with Eleanor last November, when friends and family of my nephew, Brandon Buttry, honored his memory with a cheeseburger salute the day he was supposed to return from Afghanistan (Brandon was killed in action last year). Bryan never met Brandon, but he and Eleanor joined the salute from the original Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui and sent me a photo.
I’m glad Bryan and Eleanor had that vacation in paradise in his last year. I’m glad he helped me so often and so generously. I’m sad that we’ve lost him, but I’ve smiled a lot since learning the sad news yesterday, fondly remembering one of my favorite people in journalism.