Obituary of John Allen Honderich
JOHN ALLEN HONDERICH
John passed away suddenly at home in Toronto on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at the age of 75. Loving father of Robin (Becky) and Emily. Proud and devoted grandfather of Sebastian and George. Dear brother of Mary and David (Terri), and dear uncle to Carl, Clara, Holly and Rachel. Dear nephew of Ted Honderich.
John was born on July 6, 1946, in Toronto to parents, the late Beland Honderich and the late Florence Honderich. He attended the University of Toronto where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and economics in 1968 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1971. He later studied at the London School of Economics.
John started his journalism career in 1973 as a night copy boy at the Ottawa Citizen, delivering midnight food orders to editors and reporters, eventually becoming a general assignment, police and courts reporter. In 1976 he joined the Toronto Star as an economics reporter in the paper’s Ottawa bureau. In 1979 he was named as Ottawa bureau chief and in 1980 became Washington bureau chief before moving to Toronto where he served as deputy city editor, business editor and editorial page editor.
John was appointed Editor of the Star in 1988 and took on the role of Publisher in 1994, a position he held until 2004.
Under his leadership the Star won 35 National Newspaper Awards for its reporting, photography and design, as well as three prestigious Michener Awards, considered Canada’s premier journalism award that honours outstanding journalism that results in positive change for the public good, and a Pulitzer Prize, the only Canadian newspaper to win this top U.S. award. The 2002 Michener Award was in recognition of the Star’s ground-breaking investigation into carding, proving racial profiling existed within the Toronto Police Force.
During his tenure as Editor and Publisher, John spearheaded the financial revival of Canadian Press, the country’s top news service for which he later served as Chairman for four years; launched a campaign on a New Deal for Cities that led to urban centres across Canada receiving more funding from senior governments and more local autonomy; and played a key role in the expansion of Torstar Corporation through its acquisition of The Hamilton Spectator and Kitchener-Waterloo Record as well as the development of numerous digital websites and businesses.
In 2006, John was appointed special ambassador to the mayor of Toronto. He became Chair of the Torstar board of directors in 2009, serving until 2020 when Torstar was sold to new owners. As Chair, he was particularly proud of the 2013 Michener Award, presented to the Star in recognition of its tenacious investigations into misconduct by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
In honour of his career as a distinguished reporter, editor and publisher, John was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2003, was appointed a member of the Order of Ontario in 2005, named to the Canadian News Hall of Fame in 2014 and presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Journalism Foundation in 2019.
He recently completed writing a book, tentatively scheduled for publication later this year, about the history of the Star and the roles both his father and he played in its rise to prominence as one of the preeminent publications in North America.
He received honorary degrees from Victoria University, Ryerson University and the University of King's College. He served on the boards of the Atkinson Foundation, the Michener Fellowship, the Martin Goodman Fellowship, the Mowat Centre, Seneca College and The Nature Conservancy.
Not only did John care about the future of newspapers in a strong democracy and the future of Toronto, he also had a deep love for his country. To celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, he set out on a year-long mission to visit all 47 national parks, traveling more than 83,000 km.
But for all of his travels, his island retreat in Georgian Bay remained John’s most-treasured place. At his cottage, he was a consummate entertainer and generous host to family and friends. He never tired of showing them the physical beauty of the rocks, the islands and the skies. By night, he was a committed disciple of happy hour on the screened-in porch – often to the tune of Tina Turner or ABBA.
John was a lifelong story-teller. Even outside a newsroom, he never seemed happier than when regaling friends and family with political tidbits and the latest city gossip. He never forgot how to get the scoop.
His love for Toronto included fervent support for the Toronto Raptors, which he shared with his son and grandsons. A season ticketholder for more than 10 years, watching the Raptors’ first-ever NBA championship run in person was a particular life highlight.
John brought his unique verve to all he did, which makes his loss feel especially devastating. His enthusiasm for life will be long remembered.
A small private funeral for family was held on Thursday, February 10th. A public celebration of life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers and in remembrance of John’s life, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to the John Honderich City Builder Fund through United Way Greater Toronto: www.uwgta.org/johnhonderich.
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