Canadian literary editor, anthologist Robert Weaver dies

CanLit champion Robert Weaver, who has been described as "the best friend Canadian writers ever had," has died at the age of 87.

CanLit champion Robert Weaver, who has been described as "the best friend Canadian writers ever had," has died at the age of 87.

The influential literary editor, anthologist and broadcaster died Saturday in Toronto after a brief illness.

Born in Niagara Falls, Weaver served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Armed Forces during the Second World War. He graduated from the University of Toronto and worked briefly in a bank before joining CBC Radio in 1948.

Weaver solicited and championed the work of Canadian writers and poets by featuring them on the new shows he created, including CBC Stage, CBC Playhouse, Canadian Short Stories and Anthology.

He is credited with nurturing and giving early breaks to new or then unknown young writers such as Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen. He sometimes purchased material even if he wasn't planning to use it, simply to help talented but struggling authors continue to work at their craft.

In 1956, Weaver founded the acclaimed, now-defunct literary journal The Tamarack Review, which showcased the work of writers such as Ethel Wilson and Brian Moore in its first few editions. He also edited a host of anthologies, including the Oxford Anthology of Canadian Literature and Canadian Short Stories.

In 1979, Weaver created the CBC Literary Awards, an annual competition for unpublished work that encourages and celebrates Canadian writing in a variety of categories, now including short story, poetry and creative nonfiction.

Over the past three decades, the awards have been won by the likes of Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Barry Callaghan, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Susan Musgrave and Shauna Singh Baldwin.

Although he officially retired from the CBC in the mid-1980s, Weaver continued to be a force behind the annual competition.

"I seem to have trouble retiring; I find it hard to pull myself away," he said in a 2002 interview with the Toronto Star.

Appreciation event to go ahead as scheduled

A private funeral service will be held for Weaver, who is survived by his wife Audrey, his children David and Janice, and his sister Grace.

An appreciation of Weaver, his many efforts to support Canadian literature and a celebration of the recently released biography Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature by Elaine Kalman Naves had been scheduled for Wednesday evening in Toronto.

According to the wishes of Weaver's family, the event will take place as scheduled.