Former CBC radio host Russ Germain dies after battle with cancer
TORONTO – Veteran CBC broadcaster Russ Germain is being remembered as a grammar guru who maintained a zest for life and an infectious sense of humour behind his staid demeanour.
Ex-colleagues say the radio newsman, who anchored national news shows including “The World at Six” and “World Report”, succumbed to lung cancer in hospital on Monday. Germain was 62.
Friend and former co-host Judy Maddren says Germain battled the disease valiantly for five years.
“He said to me that he considered it a condition that he would live with, and he did,” Maddren said Tuesday. “He really was quite ill, but boy, Russ Germain lived. He had to sell his sailboat but (he and his wife) continued to sail and they continued to travel. He just didn’t let it get to him.”
Maddren shared an anchor desk with Germain while both hosted “World Report” for several years in the early ’90s.
She joked that she and Barbara Smith, who also served as Germain’s co- host on the show, would joke about being the newsman’s “other wives.” Smith said she was impressed by Germain’s constant professionalism.
“He was so strong and so solid in the studio,” Smith recalled from her home in Stratford, Ont., where she retired three years ago.
“Anything can happen at that time and stories break and technical problems happen and he was always solid and it was always good to have that strength sitting next to you because you weren’t handling it all on your own. And being a stickler for language of course, if you needed a pronunciation he always had it,” she said, referring to Germain’s other role as CBC Radio’s broadcast language adviser.
Germain spent 29 years at the public broadcaster, also serving as host of CBC Radio’s “Ideas” through the late ’70s and early ’80s before joining the “World At Six” from 1983 to 1990.
After a stint at “World Report” in the ’90s he returned to “The World at Six,” where he remained until he retired in 2002.
One of Maddren’s fondest memories is of seeing Germain read Charles Dickens’ classic novel “A Christmas Carol” for their holiday broadcast.
“He was an upright kind of person, when you first met him, you’d think, ‘Oh my goodness, this man is quite a staid, sane, sensible man,’ but most people like that have this other side and he was quite funny,” Maddren said.
“When he took part in ‘Christmas Carol’ readings he could do the voices of children and his face and his whole body got into it and because he looked so upright it was doubly wonderful to see him becoming these characters.”
Germain was born in New Liskeard, Ont., and started his career at the University of Manitoba in 1966 as an announcer on a university radio show.
?From there, he got a full time job at CJOB-FM in Winnipeg as an announcer and for the next three years moved around to various broadcast stations in Winnipeg and Edmonton before joining the CBC in Saskatoon in 1974.
Even though he had long ago left the CBC’s flagship broadcast building in downtown Toronto, Maddren said his spirit was still very much a part of the newsroom. She couldn’t help but get a little emotional as she remembered his influence.
“I had to read a little piece about him on the Vancouver edition of ‘World Report’ (Tuesday morning) and just as I was getting to the end I really wasn’t sure if I could finish the last line,” she recalls.
“And there was Russ’s voice in my head, saying, ‘Buck up, Maddren.’ And it kind of made me smile.”
Germain is survived by his wife, Wendy Stratten, and his daughter.