Jack MacAndrew loses his battle with cancer

Celebrated journalist remembered for diverse, impactful career

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 23, 2014

Jack MacAndrew prepares to deliver a lecture at Confederation Centre of the Arts in January 2014. 

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

Jack MacAndrew, a journalistic gem who could command attention with both written and spoken word, has lost his battle with cancer.

He died peacefully Friday morning at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with his eldest son Shaun by his side. MacAndrew was 81.

Barbara MacAndrew says people have been calling from around the world to offer condolences for the loss of her husband of 57 years. The callers have also been voicing their own sadness at learning of the passing of a man who made his mark in broadcasting and print journalism, as well as in theatre and television.

Tributes have been coming into The Guardian as well with politicians singing MacAndrew’s praises.

“Mr. MacAndrew’s wide and varied career, his many accomplishments in television and theatre, his unique vision and insight, and his great creative talent were valued and respected by Islanders and Canadians from coast to coast,’’ P.E.I. Opposition Leader Steven Myers said in a statement.

Eastern Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill says the breadth of MacAndrew’s career “is really staggering.’’

MacAndrew walked what he once admitted to be a fine line between that of the owner of a public relations firm trying to influence what the news media think and how they play stories with that of a serious journalist.

As the later, he certainly had his moments in the spotlight, perhaps never more so than with his coverage of the Springhill mining disasters in the 1950s when he broadcasted to people around the world.

MacNeill says MacAndrew never lost the “burning in his belly’’ for writing, tallying 27 years with his well-read Eastern Graphic column called The View from Here and writing for other Canadian newspapers and magazines that earned him regional journalism awards.

“Journalistically, the man could write...he could take a few words and craft them in such an order that they commanded your attention,’’ says MacNeill. “I just think people are realizing that as an Island we have lost an incredibly unique voice in a time when unique voices are becoming fewer and fewer.’’

Guardian managing editor Gary MacDougall describes MacAndrew’s death as a loss to journalism on Prince Edward Island.

“For many years, on various media platforms, Jack told it like he saw it when it came to public affairs,’’ says MacDougall. “He was a man of strong opinions, and a good man to have in your corner when it came to advocating what was proper and right for his beloved Prince Edward Island.”

MacAndrew was an immediately recognizable figure, proudly sporting a full, thick beard and often donning a trademark cardigan sweater. He had once described himself as looking like either “an unmade bed or a scruffulous black bear.’’

He was crusty. He was charming.

He was consistent. He was a contradiction.

“He was soft as a teddy bear and as tough as a 10-inch wall,’’ says MacNeill. “If you got involved with a verbal scrap with Jack, you better come armed. He was known as a tough guy who stuck to his opinions.’’

He was also a man who played Santa Claus and doted over his wife Barbara and the couple’s sons, Shaun and Randy.

MacAndrew was born in Campbellton, N.B. on Feb. 15, 1933 and moved to P.E.I. when he was eight years old, growing up in a province he considered his “heart’s true home.’’

In 1954, he joined the Canadian Air Force and became a radio officer on Lancaster planes. He left the Air Force just two years later and was soon hired as a public relations/marketing officer at CBC Radio and TV Maritimes.

He went on to a distinguished career in broadcast journalism. He also wrote, produced and hosted several Canadian television shows, including the This Is Jazz series out of Halifax.

MacAndrew left CBC in 1965, moving back to P.E.I. as public relations/marketing director and later as producer of Charlottetown Festival’s original Canadian musicals Anne of Green Gables and Johnny Belinda among others.

He made a failed run as a Liberal candidate in the 1968 federal election, but would go on to work with Alex Campbell and Joe Ghiz in their Liberal victories in Prince Edward Island.

MacNeill notes that government transparency was a topic MacAndrew would tear into with great gusto. Environmental issues also came under the watchful eye aof the scrutining scribe.

In 1980, MacAndrew established his company Jack MacAndrew Productions, based in Toronto and in Los Angeles.

Returning with his family to P.E.I. five years later, he spent the next 20 years creating provincial, national and a few international productions under his companies Jack MacAndrew Productions, Video Atlantic, Media Concepts, and East Coast Productions.

The funeral for MacAndrew will be held on Wednesday, May 28, at St. Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown at 11 a.m. His remains are resting at the Hennessey Cutcliffe Charlottetown Funeral Home. Visiting hours are planned Tuesday, May 27, from 7-9 p.m.