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Brock Ketcham, 64, newsman and trade unionist; polite, positive and determined

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Brock Ketcham

My old brothers and sisters from the Calgary Herald strike will be saddened to learn of the death on Saturday of our dear comrade Brock Ketcham, a solid journalist, a sweet guy and an unlikely student of the sweet science. He was 64, less than a year shy of qualifying for a well-deserved retirement.

Precisely spoken, carefully dressed, sober of mien, unfailingly polite, perpetually upbeat, willing to pitch in and finish the rotten jobs that prima donnas disdain but that must nevertheless be done in a metropolitan daily newspaper’s newsroom, Edgar “Brock” Ketcham was the antithesis of the caricature of the 20th Century journalist that prevailed in the years he worked as a newsman.

But for all that Ketcham looked like a guy sent over from Central Casting to play the role of the straight man to the investigative journalist, he was no slouch when it came to doggedly pursuing major investigative stories wherever he worked in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. He was awarded the Governor General’s Award, the Roland Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism, for his careful and thoughtful investigative work.

There may have been a couple of harder working newsroom journos around somewhere, but I never met them.

As a trade unionist, Ketcham was a rock, a guy who always wore a tie and a nice hat on the picket line, never spoke an unkind word to a scab or a security goon, and who never wavered in the confidence he was doing the right thing by standing up for all of us and our legal right to be represented by a union.

When he worked as a copy editor in a business where it’s easy to slip into casual meanness, Ketcham always treated reporters with kindness and their work with respect, but for all that he was determined to make the changes that their stories required.

Speaking of rocky characteristics, apparently Ketcham could have thrown a good punch, too, if he’d ever been of a mind to do so, which to my knowledge he never was. Leastways, when he was in his mid-forties, he developed an interest in boxing and to his chickenhearted co-workers’ astonishment bravely stepped into the ring with the kind of guys who hang around boxing clubs, took his lumps, and presumably handed out a few as well.

Our former co-worker Joe Hvilivitsky described Ketcham on his online obit page as “a journalist of both great skill and integrity.” I don’t think you could put it better that that, really. Hvilivitsky completed the portrait by adding, “and he was a heck of a nice guy.”

When the strike ended his career in journalism, as it did to many of us, Ketcham dusted himself off with fortitude and dignity and uncomplainingly built a new career as an Alberta public servant, ending up as a director with Service Alberta.

Cancer finally took him Saturday morning, his family says in his memorial notice, after a 21-month illness. He is survived by his wife Charlotte, his parents, a brother and two sisters.

There will be a memorial service at McKernan Baptist Church, 11103 - 76 Ave., in Edmonton, on Friday, Sept. 28, at 1 p.m.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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