Husband, father, broadcast pioneer, mensch. Born on June 16, 1926 in Winnipeg; died on Feb. 4, 2016, in Toronto, of natural causes, aged 89.
Many who knew Merv Stone, professionally and personally, described him as a kind, unassuming, gentle soul. Few knew the true scope of his accomplishments and influence, especially in Canada's broadcasting industry.
Merv grew up in Winnipeg, the first of two children born to Harry and Lily Stone. After Harry died when Merv was 7, Lily married Morris Kopel, a widower with two daughters. For Merv, both Harry and Morris were his fathers; the word "step" never entered the family vocabulary.
As a young adult, on the advice of a friend, Merv joined a radio drama group as a way to overcome his stutter. It worked, and along the way he discovered a passion for radio broadcasting.
He began his broadcasting career in the early 1950s as a DJ and newscaster at CHAT in Medicine Hat, Alta., and then as a DJ at CJOB in Winnipeg. There he met Lynn Robins on a blind date arranged by her cousin, a pianist, whose radio show Merv hosted. Lynn and Merv married in 1955 after a whirlwind courtship and immediately moved to Medicine Hat where he was hired to help establish the city's first television station.
As he moved up the television ranks in Vancouver, and then with CBC in Edmonton, the family grew with daughter Robyn and son David. In 1965, Merv's job took them to Toronto, where he served as CBC's manager of program purchasing for more than 20 years. He was influential in bringing many popular TV shows to Canadians, including Sesame Street, which was one of his proudest accomplishments. Along with colleague Rena Krawagna, he was also able to help provide a start to many young filmmakers including Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg.
After retiring from CBC in 1988, Merv was asked to join the fledgling YTV network as vice-president of programming and production. Most of his new colleagues were much younger and he became known, affectionately, as Uncle Merv. At YTV he continued to provide opportunities for young producers of children's programming, whose work continues to be enjoyed today by his great-grandson's generation.
Merv always shared credit for accomplishments with his colleagues, often playing down his own role, but his influence was recognized with several awards. In 1991 the Canadian Film and Television Production Association honoured him with a personal achievement award for work with Canadian filmmakers. In 1992, the Children's Broadcast Institute gave him a lifetime achievement award for being "a television pioneer and true humanitarian," recognizing how he always treated others with dignity and respect.
A 1992 article about him, in the broadcast and production journal Playback, was titled "Meet Mr. Dear." Never great with names, Merv was likely one of the few men who could get away with calling a woman "dear."
When he was 68, Merv retired from YTV, only to help with the launch of Life Channel, and take contract positions in the television industry until he said, "That's it." He and Lynn spent many well-deserved retirement years enjoying their travels, their family, their friends, their community and each other. As Lynn says, they were always two halves of a whole.
Merv was a mensch, a person of integrity and honour, a stand-up guy who did the right thing because he couldn't imagine doing otherwise. The world needs more mensches like him.
Lynn Stone is Merv's wife; Robyn and David Stone are his children.