Green, Jo

Jo Green Moncur

The Globe and Mail
31 Jan 2008: page L.6.

Showgirl, TV host, entertainer, free spirit. Born Dec. 24, 1930, in Berkhamsted, England. Died April 18, 2007, in Vancouver of mesothelioma, aged 76.

If she phoned while you were out, she sometimes sang her message, improvising a comic song that could run to several rhyming verses.

If she met with a no, especially from bureaucracy, she charmed and cajoled till it became a yes. She collected friends wherever she went, and never thought that the real party might be going on somewhere else.

Jo’s party started in earnest a few days before her 16th birthday, when she signed a contract to dance at the Windmill, the London vaudeville theatre memorialized in the film Mrs. Henderson Presents . In the public mind, being a Windmill girl in 1947 was like being a Playboy bunny in 1960, except you had to have talent.

The fast life of a showgirl was a world away from Jo’s childhood, which included hard time in a convent boarding school and many hungry days as a London war evacuee. She learned that the way to avoid ever again being abandoned among strangers was to be always surrounded by friends.

She was still underage when she told her mother she was going to the dentist and came back married to a young engineer. His company sent them to Edmonton, supposedly for two years. While her husband Bob Everett built city hall, Jo worked as a model, then organized fashion shows. Fashion spots on television eventually led to her own daytime show on the new local CBC station. Over the next 25 years, she became the most prominent television host in Alberta. She interviewed authors, politicians, animal handlers and at least one Public Enemy No. 1.

She also performed with second husband Harlan Green in the recorder group the Plumbers’ Union, playing for royals and touring northern Alberta and British Columbia in a bush plane. In the summers, on Harlan’s grain farm, Jo raised chickens, milked cows and cooked up vast noon meals for a blended family of seven kids, and for anyone else working the fields. She had a great eye for interior design, loved to rebuild and plant gardens and was good with any practical problem that didn’t involve electricity.

The greatest hurt of her life occurred when her daughter Jane died of ovarian cancer at age 31. Soon afterward, Jo left her public relations job at the Edmonton Convention Centre and moved to Vancouver with third husband Eric Moncur, a CBC regional director. She worked as a volunteer, and at age 70, took up dragon boat racing and brushed up her tap-dancing. She kept her sharp wit and compassionate spirit right through her final two-year illness. She was, to borrow the name of her last prime-time interview show, one of a kind.

Robert Everett-Green is Jo’s son.

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Long-time CBC-TV host Jo Green was a keen Klondike Days booster, an accomplished musician and a dedicated volunteer.

Don Retson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2007

EDMONTON — Even when undergoing treatment for breast cancer, popular CBC television host Jo Green would always come into the local TV studios as cheerful as ever.

Armand Baril, program director of CBC TV back in the 1970s and 1980s, says Jo Green, as host and interviewer, took professionalism to a different level.

“Even when she was in pain and discomfort, you were never conscious of the fact when she was on air that she was suffering in any way,” recalls Baril.

“She was a pretty remarkable gal.”

Ms. Green died from asbestos-related cancer after a two-year fight on April 18. She was 76.

Baril was among several former CBC colleagues and others who paid tribute this week to a woman of immense charm, compassion and wit, who stayed young in spirit till the end.

Ms. Green’s 20-year TV career began with a series of fashion spots on CFRN.

Her first show for CBC was Ladies First, which began in 1963. Later programs were called Mainly for Women, Here’s Jo, Jo Green and Company and Midday.

She also did the commentary for numerous Klondike Days parades, and presented the Grey Cup parade nationally from Ottawa in 1967.

Robert Everett-Green of Toronto said his mother, who was married three times, embraced a large blended family and lived a double life in the 1970s as a TV celebrity and farm wife.

“She was a glamorous and practical woman who could dazzle an opera ball and milk a cow with equal ease,” he said.

Jennie Diment, who was head of make-up at CBC, said her close friend had a knack for extracting gems of information from visiting celebrity types who appeared on her various noon or mid- afternoon shows.

“She was very comfortable with everyone,” said Diment.

“I still remember Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, just stopping dead when she was interviewing him. He said: ‘Good grief! Why am I telling you all these things about my honeymoon?’ ”

Closely identified with Klondike Days, Ms. Green’s period costumes were the talk of the town.

“Her talents extended in so many directions,” said Diment, who believes Ms. Green’s costume creations were even more historically correct than those done for whoever happened to be playing the role of Klondike Kate.

Born [Josephine] Hamlett in Berkhamsted, England, Ms. Green was enrolled in a convent boarding school in London after her parents divorced. At 16, she became a dancer at the Windmill, the London theatre memorialized by the film Mrs. Henderson Presents.

In the early 1950s, she came here with Robert Everett, her first husband, who worked for a construction company that built the previous City Hall. Ms. Green worked as a model.

Ms. Green’s second husband, Harlan Green, said his wife of 14 years was an extraordinary woman who could be “as sophisticated or frivolous as the occasion required,” and easily blended into his life as a farmer and flute player.

Green taught her to play the flute so she could play in the Cosmopolitan Band. After he taught her the recorder, the couple became the nucleus of the Plumbers Union.

For about 20 years, the unique recorder quartet produced a number of recordings and also did TV shows, toured Canada and performed concerts in New York and Cleveland.

“With an old school bus towing an old VW bus, the family — hers, mine and ours — we sometimes went on holidays,” recalled Harlan Green.

“She always had a menagerie of dogs, cats, birds, and even an alligator, so with pit stops for all, we were quite a procession.”

Dave Smiley, who produced Guess Again, a popular Alberta quiz show modelled after Front Page Challenge, said Ms. Green’s warmth and outgoing nature made her “absolutely ace perfect” as one of three regular panelists on that show.

“She had a heart of gold,” Smiley said. “She’d do anything for anybody.”

Also paying special tribute this week to his former CBC-TV colleague was ex-city councillor Larry Langley, who with Ms. Green co-hosted the popular Midday show in Edmonton.

“We had to stop doing Midday because the network came along and said we want that time slot, thank you very much. They even went so far as to take the title as well.”

In 1986, Ms. Green retired to Vancouver where she ran a successful annual lottery campaign for the Vancouver Opera, worked as a hospice volunteer and served as a hospital board member in Maple Ridge.

At age 70, she took up dragon-boat racing, competing in regattas in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Ms. Green is survived by her children Robert Everett-Green, Miranda Sparks and Eliza Carter, five step-children, numerous nieces, nephews and grandchildren and one great-grandson.

She was predeceased by her daughter Jane Everett Gellhaus, first husband Robert Everett and third husband Eric Moncur, a Scottish-born journalist and broadcast executive who served as CBC regional director in Alberta.