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Hugh Doherty. (HANDOUT)
Hugh Doherty. (HANDOUT)

Lives Lived: Hugh Doherty Add to ...

Husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, journalist, history buff. Born Aug. 16, 1934, in Montreal; died May 7, 2013, in Ottawa, of prostate cancer, aged 78.

Ever the journalist, Hugh valued the unvarnished and forthright account, but was not without humour. A few months after moving to a retirement residence in Ottawa in 2012, he wrote, “Dangerous place, this, to make new friends. The chances of them lasting are not good.”

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He grew up the eldest of six children, a Boy Scout who enjoyed playing hockey and collecting stamps. He began working as a newspaper reporter in his teens. After university, he spent 1956 in New Zealand on a Rotary Fellowship.

He married his sweetheart, Jean Whitman, after returning to Canada in 1957. They set up house in Montreal where they had their first child, David. A few years later they moved to Sherbrooke, where they bought their first home and daughters Patricia and Jennifer were born. The family moved frequently: to Victoria, where daughter Andrea was born; then Toronto; Edmonton; St. John’s; Halifax; and finally, Middleton, N.S. Hugh’s career in newspapers and later television news took him, and his family, from coast to coast.

As a young father, long car trips – usually involving scenic lookouts, beach picnics and ice cream – were his favourite family activity. In 1972, Hugh and Jean undertook an epic family trip along the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria to Nova Scotia. In a VW van, roof rack loaded, and camping along the way, their quota was 800 kilometres a day. An orange canvas tent was set up in the evenings, a campfire lit, and Hugh might play his harmonica.

Ambitious and hard-working, Hugh often worked late, but he had a big presence around the home. He assigned chores and set allowances. His temper was legendary. He stressed the importance of money management, requiring a budget when his children asked for money. He had a way with a charcoal barbecue and grilled rib steaks, with a few wieners on the side, to perfection. He was also a dad who embarrassed his kids by wearing plaid shorts and sandals with socks.

He loved classical music and opera and would use a baton to conduct while the stereo played at high volume. Playing the electronic organ also gave him much pleasure (and Jean a few headaches).

Hugh read a lot, mostly history, current events and biographies. In retirement, he re-read the complete works of Dickens; the set from his grandfather had travelled with him. He appreciated poetry, and gave copies of his early poems to his children as heartfelt gifts.

Hugh was an early adopter of the personal computer in the 1980s, and was an enthusiast of usenets and e-mail. He enjoyed genealogy. He happily created and tended several websites, adding personal pages for each grandchild.

A keen photographer and videographer, Hugh created a precious family archive spanning decades.

Jean’s death in 2011 was a devastating blow from which he never recovered. They lived together “until death did them part,” just as they wrote on their wedding photographs.

His health rapidly declining in 2012, Hugh moved to Ottawa and found comfort in being closer to family.

Pat Doherty is Hugh’s daughter.

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