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Like many journalists of his time, Henry Overduin was a drinker and a smoker.

Like all too many of them, he developed throat cancer by the time he was in his mid-40s. But Henry was luckier than most. Although his doctors urged excision of his vocal cords, Henry chose radiation and won, at least for a time.

His prize, won with help also from Alcoholics Anonymous, was several additional decades of doing what he enjoyed most - journalism, research, teaching at universities in Canada and the United States, and other wide-ranging interests including a pioneering role at the very beginning of videotex in Canada; or, as we would now describe it, the Internet.

"The ominous shadow slithered into my X-ray machine on a day

"When the parking lots were mush and the sidewalks icy ...

"The grapefruit-size mass pushing hard into the trachea's path

"And that left the surgeon's knife helpless against the tumor's wrath."

It was typical of Henry to report in this fashion on his last assignment. Journalism was his favourite "beat" during the first half of his life, starting on the Times-Journal of his hometown, St. Thomas, Ont. It led him to Windsor, Ont., Yellowknife, the Montreal Gazette and the Montreal Star before bringing him to the doorstep of Western's graduate school of journalism in London, Ont.

There, he pioneered the development of what was then called "on-screen print" or "videotex." One of his projects involved turning television screens in farmhouses in Western Canada into display terminals for agricultural information.

Unable to find work in Canada after earning his doctorate in philosophy at Western in 1991, Henry moved to the United States, where he directed journalism programs at Texas A&M University and McNeese State University in Louisiana.

Plans for an orderly retirement were interrupted in 2005 when Hurricane Rita smashed the home that Henry and his second wife, Dee, had purchased in Louisiana. They returned to London several years ago, and Henry continued work on a book about the existence of the soul and began to rebuild the $20,000 library that had been lost in the hurricane. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last December.

"Yet now we face this cancer foe again and with much deeper fear

"Nourished by age and finding little sense of calling or vocation

"That would give meaning to my prayers and meditations

"Into the very possibility of soul and self in a material world."

Peter Desbarats is Henry's friend.

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