CBC Sudbury broadcaster Barry Mercer dead at 66

Barry Mercer was still a student when he was hired by the CBC in 1972 as a summer relief radio announcer in Goose Bay, Labrador.
Sudbury radio host and reporter Barry Mercer died Sunday. This photograph is taken from his Facebook page on a recent trip to Stonehenge. (Facebook-- Barry Mercer)

Long-time CBC journalist and broadcaster Barry Mercer has died.

Mercer passed away on Sunday in Sudbury at the age of 66 after a brief struggle with cancer.

Mercer joined CBC Sudbury in 1985, first as a reporter, then as the host of Points North and Radio Noon. He retired in 2006, but filled in on the airwaves for years afterwards.

Mercer got his start with the CBC in 1972, when he was hired as a summer relief radio announcer in Goose Bay. 

That temporary job eventually turned into a full-time position and a 35-year career.

During CBC Sudbury's open house in October, 2018, Mercer visited the station to reminisce about his career with Up North host Waubgeshig Rice.

Barry Mercer was a reporter and host with the CBC in Sudbury. (CBC)

One of his favourite memories, Mercer said, was during a trip along the North Channel in 1993.

"I was in Sault Ste. Marie at a place called Terminal Crescent," Mercer said. "I had been travelling along the North Channel gathering stories for the afternoon show...and one of the stories I was doing had to do with hang gliding."

The instructor Mercer had arranged the interview with hadn't shown up, so Mercer decided to return to his hotel.

"But as I was leaving the parking lot...there he was with a kite on top of the car. And to make a long story short, I broke both of my arms in the effort."

Mercer spent a few days recuperating in a Toronto hospital.

"I remember just before I was going into the operating room and my wife was with me, I said 'Lorraine, make sure you tell [host Eric Moore]  there's two hours worth of tape on that tape recorder.'"

As for his career telling the stories of people in northern Ontario, Mercer said he simply considered himself a "conduit."  

"I think all Canadians, no matter where you live in this amazing country, want to tell their stories."

"And I'm so honoured to have met so many people who who allowed me to carry on that job, which is very cool." 

Here's a recording of an interview with one of Up North's beloved hosts -- Barry Mercer. In this interview with Waubgeshig Rice, he reflects on some more memorable parts of his career working for CBC. 4:37

CBC Sudbury executive producer Fiona Christensen said Mercer was a huge talent, and an amazing story-teller.

"Barry could spin a yarn like nobody's business," said Christensen. "He was such a big presence on air, and had an incredible ability to get people to share their stories."

"Barry was a consummate professional and cared deeply about the work the CBC does in Canada, and here in northern Ontario. He will be sadly missed by all of us at CBC."

Mercer always maintained the key to telling Canadians' stories is to know when to stop talking. 

"That's all you have to do is listen...listen to what they're saying to you." 

Mercer is survived by his wife, Lorraine, sons Zachary and Benjamin, their wives Hitomi and Chantal, and three grandchildren, Silas, Emma and Tasha. 

A celebration of life will be planned for a later date. Memorial donations in memory of Barry Mercer can be made to Maison McCulloch Hospice, 1028 South Bay Road, in Sudbury.


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