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Mercredi, 12 février 2014

Charles Bury, champion of community, dies of cancer

By Rachel Garber

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The communities of the Haut-Saint-François and beyond have lost a champion. Journalism has lost a lion. And a family has lost a loving father. Charles "Charlie" Bury passed away on February 1st at the age of 67.

He was widely known as editor of The Sherbrooke Record from 1981 to 1996. He was also a long-time community, heritage and environmental advocate in the Eastern Townships.

Suffering from Stage 4 liver cancer, he went into the CHUS in mid-November, and then was transferred to the Maison Aube-Lumière in mid-January. His bed was often surrounded by a crowd of friends and family members. Among them were his partner Catherine Campbell, his daughter Rachel (D.J. Myers) of Coaticook and his son Luke (Brooke Gadapee) of Derby Centre, Vermont. His granddaughters Eva Bury, Anna Bury and Charlotte Brand, and his step-grandchildren Athena and Griffin Myers. The mother of his children, Berit Lundh, and her daughter Meredith Baird. His brothers Philip and Bill, and his sister Anne.

Bury made headlines in early January when he got permission to use his marijuana vaporizer in his hospital room. "It's a remedy that helps you to relax and you can't help but being nervous and tense when you're put in a position like this," Bury told CBC Radio. "I've never died before, so I don't know exactly what it's going to be like."

The vaporizer emits no smoke and little odor. But it sparked controversy when the CHUS admitted it had no policy concerning the use of cannabis.

In the following weeks, expressions of homage and sorrow came in from friends and colleagues across Canada. Bury had been on the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Journalists for almost three decades, and chaired the board for many years. In his career at the Record, Bury had mentored many of the now prominent journalists in English media. For example, Peter Scowen of the National Post and the Globe and Mail. And the Montreal Gazette crime reporter Paul Cherry.

"He would see potential for people," said Sharon McCully. "He would just bombard them with information about how to be a good reporter. He'd not preach to you, but in every sentence you were learning something."

McCully worked for Bury at the Record for years, and succeeded him as editor.

French-speaking journalists and politicians reached out to him too in the past months. Former premier Jean Charest. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

"When he would walk into a press conference, everybody knew him there," said McCully. "All the French colleagues knew him. The politicians all knew him. The mayors of all the municipalities knew him. And I think they respected him because he was a straight shooter. When he wanted to say something, he came straight out and said it - but always fairly. He never attacked the person, always the issue."

"He knew the Townships as if it was his own back yard," said McCully. "He had kind of an encyclopedic memory for these things. He understood the issues. He read everything."

Charles Bury was born and grew up in Montreal, where he had a series of different jobs. He was a cadet when he was young. He was a lab technician. He was a bouncer in the popular Boiler Room pub on Crescent Street. He told his daughter Rachel that he was a "three-time university dropout." But he was "an avid visitor of every museum he could, from a very young age," she said. "He would read every plaque."

Along with many of his friends who frequented the Boiler Room, said Rachel, Bury moved to the Townships in 1972. They were the back-to-the-landers generation. He had ties to the Townships. His mother was born in Sweetsburg (Cowansville). "In fact," Rachel said, "recently we found out that our family ties to the Townships go back to the 1700s."

Bury and his family lived in Saint-Herménégilde until 1979. He had a job building the first ditches and sidewalks in the village. Near the end of 1976, he began working as a reporter for the monthly Townships Sun, and became its editor in about 1980. "It seems to me journalism just came to him," said his daughter. "It just landed in his life."

From there, Bury moved to the editor's chair at The Record, pony tail, earring, bib overalls and all. In about 1994 he settled in Birchton.

What was close to his heart? First, his family, said Rachel. "After that, I think the Museum in Eaton Corner. Whenever he'd speak about it, he was so proud."

In 2005, Bury came onto the Eaton Corner Museum's board of directors, and was its president in 2012-2013. He and Richard Faubert promoted the museum's Homestead Project, said the current president, Marc Nault. "With Charles, we made many, many changes. Just by asking questions, he made things happen."

Bury's love of heritage was evident in other activities, too. He edited the Quebec Heritage News magazine from 2000 to 2006, and in 2003 was interim Executive Director of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. And he returned to edit the Townships Sun from 2009 to 2011.

His next love, said Rachel, was his involvement in conservation and environmentalism. "He was actually a game warden. He spoke on behalf of farmers. He would speak about conservation of wild life and birds and trees. He worked with the St-Francis Valley Naturalists Club."

"Ben Hodge came to see my dad in the hospital, and he said ‘Charles, I'd just really like to thank you for your contribution to agriculture, your contribution to community life, and your contribution to life in general.' A community person came to say that to my dad, and I wrote it down at the time because I thought it was pretty heartwarming," she said.

"Obviously being a newspaper reporter was important to him, but it was only important because he got to advocate for and talk about all these other things that were more dear to his heart," said Rachel. "I think being a newspaper editor and journalist was a perfect platform for him to be out there and meet people, to actually make a difference from the bottom up."

"The thing that always struck me about Charlie was just his sense of justice in every story," said McCully. "He always made sure that both sides were covered. The personal integrity that he had."

"He was a softball umpire for a really long time," said Rachel. "I remember going to games all over the place, when I was a kid. You know, being a softball umpire is really a good metaphor for my dad - he watched out for the underdog, and made sure everybody played fair pretty much all the time."

Visiting hours are at the Cass Funeral Home, 3006 College St. in Lennoxville on Friday, February 14, at 2-4 and 7-10 p.m. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, February 15, at the Burrough's Falls Hall, 14235 Route 143, Ayer's Cliff, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Eaton Corner Museum, 374 Route 253, Cookshire-Eaton, QC J0B 1M0. Details and a Book of Memories are available at

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