1971 was the most memorable year of my life. I’d taken a year off after high school graduation to make some money and travel. Spent several months hitchhiking around Europe. Celebrated my 20th birthday sitting on a cold, rainy, sandflea-infested beach in western Scotland, shaking with fever and trying to stay dry while holding a pathetic little piece of plastic over my head.
It was a time of meeting people from around the world, visiting historic sites and generally expanding my horizons.
In the fall of that year, I started my first year of University in London, Ontario, in order to study Journalism.
Also in the fall of that year, the storied newspaper, the Toronto Telegram, folded. As a media junkie, this was huge news. Delivering the “Tely” was my first job as an 11-year-old and I mourned its passing. I hated the thought of the Toronto area being stuck with the fat-cat newspaper, The Star.
Luckily, from the ashes of the Tely sprung a feisty tabloid, the Toronto Sun. Within 48 hours of the last Tely hitting the street, the first issue of the Sun did likewise. It was the brain-child of Doug Creighton, Don Hunt and editor-in-chief, Peter Worthington.
I had two Journalistic heroes in those days. One was the great Hunter S. Thompson, the man who put gonzo into Journalism, shattering the stereotype of the blandly objective reporter.
The other was Peter Worthington. I’ll not detail his career. (I'll let him do it below.) But he did it all, saw it all and reported it all. He was courageous, joining the Canadian Navy at 17 to take part in WWII. As an officer, he lead troops in the North Korean conflict. Later, as a reporter, he filed stories from most war zones around the world. When Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby, Peter was there, just feet away.
His relationship with the Sun was stormy. He probably quit or was fired umpteen times and returned to work the following day. Eventually, he left the paper only to return as a contributing writer some years later.
I loved the columns he wrote about his life-long love affair with Jack Russell Terriers. Having bonded with my own JRT the past half-dozen years, I understand better his fascination with them. They’re much like Worthington himself - curious, intelligent and amazingly stubborn.
Well, you know where this is going. Peter Worthington died Monday night at the age of 86. It’s difficult to be sad about a person living a long, full life and then passing quietly.
But I am sad. I’ll miss his wry humour and wisdom.
Today, 1971 seems like a very long time ago.
Leave it to Worthington to write his own obituary. I hope you'll take the time to check it out. It's a heckuva lot more interesting than what I wrote.