TORONTO, Nov. 23 /CNW/ - Jean-Guy Connolly, the first employee hired to start Canada's fledgling press release wire service nearly 50 years ago, died today at his home in Port of Newcastle, Ontario following a brief battle with cancer. He was 75.
For years, Connolly was the sole employee of Canada NewsWire, the full-text newswire started in Montreal and Toronto in 1960 by a group of Canadian, American and British news and public relations professionals. CNW was the first of its kind in Canada, and as the very first employee, Connolly was often referred to over the years as the "father" of the industry he helped start.
A jovial and somewhat rotund French Canadian of Irish roots, Jean-Guy's "joie de vivre" was infectious to the hundreds of employees he touched and to the thousands of customers who came to know him over his nearly 50-year career. No matter how large CNW grew, he could greet each employee by name every morning.
Connolly was a senior supervisor at CNCP Telecommunications in Montreal when he accepted an offer to join the startup company. In the early years, he often served multiple roles of keyboard operator, messenger, customer service representative, translator, salesman, receptionist and accountant. He stuck with the company even through its initial financial challenges, and often spoke about the period between 1962 and 1968 when he was the company's sole employee and never took a day off.
In 1984, Connolly moved his accounting and translation teams from Montreal to CNW's new head offices in Toronto. From there, he went on to become executive vice-president of CNW, and chairman of CNW Telbec, the company's Quebec division. Connolly was instrumental in CNW's successful bid for the Quebec Government communications contract, and he later played a key role in CNW's purchase of Telbec, the provincially-based newswire established in 1966 to send government news releases to the news media.
Despite numerous attempts at retirement, he remained connected to the company and worked into his 70s as a part-time translator and member of the CNW Telbec board of directors.
"Those of us in this industry owe a debt of gratitude to Jean-Guy," said CNW President Carolyn McGill-Davidson. "We would not have our careers today were it not for his dedication, hard work and persistence. Jean-Guy was, indeed, the soul of CNW."
Connolly was remembered as a "trusted friend," by Joseph A. P. Clark, CNW's founding president and CEO. "I greatly valued him at work or elsewhere. When I worked at CNW I could count on him for support and the unvarnished truth. In worrying situations I could often count on him to leave me laughing, a gift I do not forget."
Gordon Eastwood, who worked with Connolly from 1980 and who was CNW's President and CEO from 1986 to 1995, offered his tribute:
"Jean-Guy was a true friend and a loyal employee. He always had my back and his life was completely devoted to CNW. Working with him, and playing with him, was always a happy solution to the corporate battles."
Tom Enright, CNW president and CEO from 1996 to 2008, described Connolly as "the cornerstone on which CNW was built. His passion, commitment and humour will always be greatly appreciated and sorely missed. It was an honour to call him my colleague and friend."
Born in Montreal on April 13, 1934, he was the son of James Connolly and Yvonne Lafond. He is survived by his long-time partner Lynda Mayes; sister Lise Larochelle; his first wife Denise Lariviere; daughters Nancy, Lynne and Patricia; and grandchildren Jean-Francois, Marie-Pier and Clemence. He was pre-deceased by his brother, Jacques.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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SOURCE CNW Group Ltd.
For further information: For further information: David Milliken, CNW, (416) 863-2110 ((416) 318-9579)