Pete McGarvey (1927-2014)

Pete McGarvey

Year Born: 1927

Year Died: 2014

Year of Induction: 2000


McGarvey, Pete (1927-2014)

 Born June 29, 1927 in Toronto, James A. “Pete” McGarvey had a career in Ontario radio spanning more than fifty years. Beginning as a radio script writer for Canadian High News shortly after completing high school in June 1946, McGarvey moved to CFOR, Orillia in 1947 and stayed for eighteen years, advancing from copy-writer to assistant general manager in a station that launched the careers of many well known personalities. Gordon Lightfoot was a familiar figure around the CFOR studio in the McGarvey years. Radio journalist Tayler “Hap” Parnaby; NHL Hall of Fame sportscaster Ken “Jiggs” McDonald; stage and screen actor Shane Rimmer, and Richard Wright, winner of the 2001 Governor General’s Prize for Fiction and the coveted Giller Prize, were all CFOR alumni. 

In addition to his management and on-air duties at the radio station, Pete played a leading part in community life, serving for 11 years on municipal councils, as alderman, reeve and deputy-reeve. In his mid­ twenties he led a four year campaign to secure and restore “The Old Brewery Bay,” the summer estate of Canada’s celebrated humorist, Stephen Leacock.  For his efforts to save this historic residence, he was chosen as Orillia’s Citizen of the Year in 1957, and was named Director Emeritus of the Leacock Museum in 1999.

In 1961, with Ruth and Casey Jones, he co-founded The Mariposa Folk Festival. During the 2005 Festival in Orillia, he became one of the first inductees into the Mariposa Hall of Fame.

Pete spent from 1965 to 1973 as News Director of CFCO radio in Chatham, Ontario, where he won Dan McArthur Awards from the Radio/Television News Directors’ Association for documentaries in 1971 and 1972. Pete moved to Toronto in August 1973, where he joined CKEY radio as a featured newscaster and commentator, heard first at 5:00 and 6:00pm and later, from 1976 until his retirement at the end of 1987, at 7:00 and 8:00 am.

1986 saw the launch of Heritage Ontario, a radio on-air presentation of historical vignettes under the auspices of the Ontario Heritage Foundation. The programs, 1200 in all, were written and narrated by Pete McGarvey, and were heard on forty stations across the province over the next five years. 

Pete traveled to many locations around the world in the 1970s and ’80s, including Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Washington, Jerusalem and Beirut. He covered the arrival of the Apollo Eleven astronauts in Honolulu in July 1969, and reported on the final days of the Nixon administration in a series of broadcasts from The Watergate Hotel, Washington in August 1974.

In his capacity as CKEY’s Arts and Entertainment Editor, Pete interviewed over a thousand prominent personalities from Hollywood, Broadway and the worlds of music and literature.

When Pete McGarvey retired from CKEY on the last day of December, 1987, three hours of morning airtime were devoted to tributes from such notables as Premier David Peterson, Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, author Pierre Berton, broadcast journalist Fraser Kelly and Toronto Sun Managing editor John Downing. A scholarship was established in his name at Humber College in 1988, to be awarded to a student who exhibited humanitarian qualities.

In his first five “retirement” years McGarvey roamed the world as a syndicated radio and print travel correspondent, journeying to dozens of locations, including Australia, England, France, Denmark, Austria, Israel, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and many destinations in North America and the Caribbean.

In 1989 he began a weekly column of memories and observations for the Orillia Packet and Times and hosted many features on community television. “The Old Brewery Bay; A Leacockian Tale,” his first-person account of how Orillia acquired the Leacock home, was published by Dundurn Press in 1994 as a Heritage Award winner and a Canadian best seller. “The Stephen Leacock Picture Book,” co-authored with museum curator Daphne Mainprize, appeared five years later as another Dundurn publication.

In 1995 he collaborated with Val Lumbers on a biography, “Moments in Time: The Art of James Lumbers.” “A Journey of Faith: The Lineage of William Kidd of County Derry, Ireland,” co-authored with William Fear, was published in 1998. (William Kidd was Pete McGarvey’s great-great grandfather).

For his community and professional achievements, Pete McGarvey was inducted into the Orillia Hall of Fame in May, 1995. He was named a Canadian Achiever in 1997. In September 2000, two hundred friends and colleagues gathered in Orillia for a McGarvey tribute that raised $7000 for the Leacock Museum and the Stephen Leacock Association. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Radio/ Television News Directors Association of Canada in May, 2004 in London, Ontario.

In July 2008, a Mariposa Butterfly Garden was dedicated in his honour as the founder of the Stephen Leacock Museum, half a century earlier., A Lifelong Learning Centre at the Stephen Leacock Museum was named the Eileen and James A. “Pete” McGarvey Centre in July, 2002.

Pete served on the boards of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Goodwill Industries of Canada, Compassion Canada, the CNIB National Library Board and Family Services Association of Metro Toronto. In Chatham he was a member of the Public Library Board for eight years and president of the Kent-Essex Tourist Association for three years. In Orillia in more recent times he served on the board of directors of Soldiers Memorial Hospital, The Cellar Singers and the Stephen Leacock Museum. He was a Distinguished Past President (1998-99) of Champlain “Golden 1,” at the time the largest Kiwanis club in Central Ontario.

On June 4, 2011 at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University, an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters was conferred on 83-year-old Pete McGarvey for his leadership role in heritage projects in Orillia and across Ontario.

James A. “Pete” McGarvey died on March 10th 2014.

Written by Pip Wedge – December, 2011