Don Lawrie (1922-2014)
Pioneer - Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Lawrie, Don (1922-2014)
Toronto-born Donald Robert Lawrie entered broadcasting in 1946 as an announcer, morning man, newscaster and sportscaster at CJKL, Kirkland Lake. He later became sales manager and by 1951 was station manager. In 1952, he was manager of CHEX Radio in Peterborough, and readying an application for a TV licence for the city. CHEX-TV signed-on March 26, 1955.
In October, 1957, Don was named president of the Thomson Broadcast Division which, at that time, operated 11 radio and television stations in Ontario. When Roy Thomson broke up his Canadian broadcast holdings, the Kingston and Peterborough radio and television stations were acquired by Power Broadcasting Inc. This group was later enlarged to include stations in Barrie, Collingwood, Cambridge and Guelph. Don was president of the Power stations until he retired on September 1, 1989.
Beginning in the late 60s, Don had also become interested in the developing Canadian cable industry and was instrumental in the Thomson family’s involvement in Cableview Quinte (Belleville) and Classicomm (Richmond Hill) and was a director on both of their boards during their years of growth and achievement..
During his 43-year career in radio and television, Don served the broadcasting industry in many ways, among them, as chairman of the Television Bureau of Advertising, the CBC Television Affiliate Network Committee, president of the Central Canada Broadcasters Association (CCBA), Director and Vice-Chairman of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. In 1983, the CCBA voted him "Broadcaster of the Year”, largely for his chairmanship of the CAB Committee which included Gerry Acton, Frank Murray, Ted Eadinger and Andre Mercier, in instituting the annual Gold Ribbon Awards and the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.
The Gold Ribbon name was selected because of its easy translation into French..."Ruban d'Or". Don kept the wooden protoype which was produced by Aluminum Star Products of Belleville, Ontario. The committee had held a contest among member stations to produce an award design. This was won by Judith Yawarsky of CFPL-TV, London, Ontario. Regarding the Broadcast Hall of Fame, the committee stipulated that, from a material or humanitarian standpoint, nominees must have achieved outstanding success in helping to raise industry standards.
Some of the highlights of Don’s involvement in the communities in which he worked and lived began in Kirkland Lake where he was president of the Kirkland District Fish and Game Association. While in Peterborough, he was president of the Peterborough Sales and Advertising Club and the president of the Kinsmen Club. He was also a member of the steering committee that built the Peterborough Memorial Center.
In his retirement to his home in Bayshore Village on Lake Simcoe near Orillia, Don became active in the Orillia “Golden” Kiwanis Club. He served on the Kiwanis Board of Directors and was a board member of the Bayshore Village Association..
In his personal service in the community, Don became a regular volunteer at the Talking Book Library of the Christian Blind Mission International, reading and recording books on digital discs for the visually-impaired, and as a drummer, harmonica player and singer for the "Markham Melody Makers", an orchestra of nine (volunteer) musicians that entertained at many retirement homes. His legacy includes a book he authored titled "And now - the Nooze" - a handy reference guide for would-be broadcasters and anyone who had reason to speak in public.
Don was duly honoured when on his retirement in 1989, the Desmarais family (Power Corp) named the Peterborough Broadcasting Center - the DONALD R. LAWRIE building.
In November 2007, Don Lawrie was inducted into the CAB Hall of Fame.
Don Lawrie died at the age of 92 on May 13th 2014.
Written by J. Lyman Potts CM - November, 2003