Farewell, Doc — you will be missed
I hadn’t seen Bob (Doc) Holliday in six or seven years when he came to visit me in the Canstar Community News offices at the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2013. Doc and I had been colleagues at the Winnipeg Sun in the 1990s and early 2000s, and we worked together closely when I was an assignment editor and he was a reporter who didn’t like taking assignments.
Bob retired from the Sun in 2007 and dedicated himself to his role as volunteer president of the St. Vital Historical Society (while maintaining his many freelance gigs). It was his determination and dedication that led to the opening of the St. Vital Museum in May 2008 in the old fire station at 600 St. Mary’s Rd., just south of the junction of St. Mary’s and St. Anne’s Road.
On this particular afternoon in 2013, Bob had come to pitch me on becoming a community correspondent for The Lance, which would allow him to write about the history of St. Vital while also promoting the museum. He mentioned that he’d started his long media career (which included stints at the Winnipeg Tribune and CJOB) as a cub reporter for The Lance, where he wrote sports stories, sold ads, and covered St. Vital council meetings in the late 1960s.
I said yes, and Bob’s first St. Vital column ran on May 1, 2013.
A couple of months later, Doc came to see me again, and the twinkle in his eye told me I was in trouble.
“Hey J.K., have you got 20 bucks?” he asked.
Humouring him, I handed over a bill.
“Congratulations! You’re now a member of the St. Vital Historical Society,” he said.
“How’d you like to be on the board?”
I was vice-president within a year.
That transaction was pure Doc Holliday. He was the kind of guy who could kid and cajole anyone into doing just about anything, and he seemed to know almost everybody in town.
Over the next few years, Bob and I once again worked closely, mostly on raising funds for the museum. We ran several SVHS barbecues with the historical society’s members and volunteers, and we also organized and promoted two fundraising concerts featuring Ray St. Germain (another St. Vital kid). It was fun work for a good cause and, most important, we renewed our friendship.
Although time constraints led me to step away from the historical society a few years ago, Bob and I spoke often, and I always looked forward to reading and editing his columns.
Bob died on Wednesday, Dec. 28, finally succumbing to the cancer he battled off and on for two decades. I knew he was gravely ill, so I was saddened by the news but also relieved to hear his suffering had ended. I was also given pause to smile more than once as I remembered his devilish grin and easy humour while reading tributes posted online by his many friends and colleagues.
Godspeed, Doc. You will be missed.
One of the best tributes to Doc, by Greg Oliver at Slam Wrestling, recalls Bob’s second career, as local professional wrestling promoter for the AWA, WWF, and WWE. Read it here.
Managing editor, Canstar Community News
John Kendle is managing editor of Canstar Community News, which publishes the Free Press Community Review. Email him at: email@example.com