Oral historian Barry Broadfoot dies

Canadian author, journalist Barry Broadfoot died. He was 77.

Barry Broadfoot, a journalist who turned to writing oral histories that documented many facets of Canadian life, has died. He was 77.

Born in Winnipeg in 1926, Broadfoot worked at a number of newspapers in Western Canada before turning to books in 1972.

He became a best-selling author with his oral histories, books such as Ten Lost Years, 1929-1939 (the Great Depression), The Pioneer Years, Next Year Country (Canadian West) and The Immigrant Years (post-war immigration).

After editing the University of Manitoba student newspaper, Broadfoot worked at papers in Winnipeg, Edmonton and The Vancouver Sun, where he was a reporter, editor and troublemaker for 17 years, starting in 1955.

That ended in 1972, when Broadfoot chucked his daily job, got into his old Volkswagen with an upright typewriter, and drove across the country, collecting the stories that became Ten Lost Years. It was published in 1973.

"I said 'the hell with it,'" Broadfoot told the Sun in 1996. "I put 17 years of inter-office memos into a shoebox, liberated the typewriter and walked out."

In 1972, he turned his creative energy to books on Canadian history based upon his extensive interviews, often in bars where he bought the beer. Broadfoot donated his papers to the University of Manitoba, but he "seldom retained the original tape recordings or the names of those he interviewed and later quoted in his books," the university website said.

In 2000, he and his wife Lori donated $20,000 to create a journalism endowment for Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo.

"It appears to me that journalism in B.C. has been neglected as a recipient of funds," he said. "It doesn't get any respect."

Broadfoot suffered a stroke in 1998, which blinded him and impaired his memory. He died Friday in Nanaimo.