Max Keeping, former Ottawa news anchor, dead at 73

Max Keeping, the long-time chief anchor for the CTV Ottawa and CJOH newscasts, has died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer.

Keeping anchored CTV Ottawa newscast for 38 years until retirement in 2010

Max Keeping, one of Canada's longest-serving television anchors, led CTV Ottawa's 6 o'clock newscast for 38 years until his retirement in 2010, but his most lasting legacy in Ottawa may be his lifelong commitment to local charities.

Keeping, 73, died after a long battle with cancer.

Originally from Newfoundland, Keeping moved to Ottawa in 1965 to work as a parliamentary radio reporter and later joined CTV.

A tireless fundraiser for charitable causes, the popular TV host established his own foundation, emceed telethons, championed events such as The Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life, and had a wing of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario named in his honour.

Don't get hung up, don't give up. Never give in to a bully. Never give in to this rotten son of a bitch of cancer.- Max Keeping

"Max is the guy who, more than any single person, worked to connect our hospital with the community," said CHEO Foundation president Kevin Keohane.

Keohane says beyond countless fundraising events, Keeping also showed real compassion for CHEO's young patients and their families.

Lived life 'to the Max'

"So many times Max would come to the hospital and would meet the family, and he'd follow up with family, the mom and dad, call them and leave encouraging messages."

Keeping underwent surgery in October 2012 for colorectal cancer, in which he had four organs removed, but he maintained a busy community profile, appearing at fundraisers and charitable events.

A diagnosis of cancer did not slow him down, or reduce his enthusiasm for life. When asked how he was faring with the treatment for his disease, Keeping would usually respond with a warm smile, saying he was grateful for each day, and "living life to the Max!"

"I party. I work hard... I just want use what time I have have. And in case it's limited, I'm going to go faster, not slower."

Promoted early cancer screening

In March 2014 Keeping faced a grim prognosis when doctors told him his cancer had spread to his lungs and that it was incurable. Despite that, he told the CBC's Lucy van Oldenbarneveld, that he was was not giving in to negativity.

"Don't get hung up, don't give up. Never give in to a bully. Never give in to this rotten son of a bitch of cancer."

He also encouraged others to get tested for all forms of cancer, believing that he had waited too long to be screened.

Keeping received many honours for his charitable work including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, a Gemini Humanitarian Award, as well as doctorates from both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.

Keeping had 'passion for news'

Carol Anne Meehan, who co-anchored the CTV Ottawa evening newscast with Keeping for more than two decades, said it was a career goal to work with him.

"When I finally took my seat beside him I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. But I recognized that I was working with an icon, that this was not a usual job," she said.

We weren't just a news team, we were a family.- CTV Ottawa anchor Carol Anne Meehan

"My job was not just to read the news — it was to be a member of the community and that's what he taught me."

CTV Ottawa reporter Joanne Schnurr recalled being intimidated by Keeping when she started as a rookie at the station 25 years ago.

"He was known to be a little rough on some of the newbies," she said. "But he was like that for a reason. He wanted to mould you. He had a passion for news and he wanted to impart that passion on the journalists around him."

Keeping was more than a colleague and more than a friend, Meehan said.

"We weren't just a news team, we were a family," she said. "He was like our dad and dad's going to be missed."

Moments of silence

Moments of silence were held at Thursday's Ottawa Redblacks game, as well as during a public forum on the Syrian refugee crisis being held at city hall.

Mayor Jim Watson briefly choked up as he described Keeping as a "true community builder."

"He put on a brave face and fought his cancer, but sadly today, he passed away," said Watson. "Max would be front and centre at an event like this, because, as we all know, it's the kind of person he was."

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