Perhaps the sweetest managing editor in the 114-year history of The Penticton Herald has died.
Harvie Gay passed away Sept. 24 in Vernon. He was 84.
Gay was hired by The Herald as city editor in October 1970 at a starting salary of $165 per week, and a year later became managing editor, according to what remains of his personnel file.
While his retirement date is uncertain, former colleagues believe he left in the mid-1990s after spending several years as a reporter, a demotion he requested to ease into life after The Herald.
Those same colleagues are unanimous in their recollection of Gay as kind, caring and committed to his craft.
“When I was in journalism school in Edmonton, the program director said, ‘You’re going to hate your editor. He’s going to make your life difficult, but he’ll teach you how to be a good writer and eventually you’ll like him and appreciate what he’s done,’” recounted Dave Duncan, who worked as a reporter and lifestyles editor at The Herald from 1980 to 2000.
“But Harvie, from the beginning, was just the nicest, kindest boss – helpful, funny – so he kind of dispelled that rumour.”
Duncan described Gay’s writing as “powerful,” and recalls one column in which Gay detailed the method he used to quit smoking.
“Hundreds of people – perhaps dozens – put that column on their fridge and quit smoking, including my father,” said Duncan.
Gay also had a flair for dramatic writing, which was on display in May 1971, when he covered a visit to Penticton by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Princess Anne.
“It was as if she descended from a cloud covered sky into an Eden with its white and pink orchard blossoms, its officials smart and polished, and its setting lush and inspiring, as only the Okanagan in spring can be,” wrote Gay.
“I don’t remember him being that flowery,” said Barb Grimm, who worked as a reporter and city editor at The Herald from 1970 to 1989.
“But keep in mind how many years ago that was. It was a different world back then,” said Grimm, who described Gay’s writing as “graceful.”
Gay himself, she continued, was a gentleman.
“He treated everybody with respect and kindness, and that included the staff and everybody he met in the community,” said Grimm.
Former reporter John Moorhouse, who worked at The Herald from 1988 to 2015, said Gay’s easy manner still stands out in his mind.
“I can’t remember him ever getting angry about anyone or anything, which says a lot about his character,” said Moorhouse.
“He was also a fantastic public speaker. I remember him at one event – a Herald Christmas party perhaps – getting up and having everyone in stitches with his comments. A totally different side to him.”
Gay, who played banjo in the Penticton and Vernon rube bands, left behind a wife, daughter and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son and grandson.
His family already said goodbye at a private service at the Grindrod cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks mourners to make a donation to Noric House retirement home in Vernon.