By Dorothy Dobbie
Garry Robertson was a name to be reckoned with when I was young. His music services were advertised everywhere: Garry Robertson Music! If you wanted a D-Jay, he was your man – or one of his men was your man. He grew the brand and soon it was a watchword right across the country. And we were proud that it was a Winnipeg firm.
Things change, though, and eventually, Garry saw the writing on the wall and got out of the business, selling it and investing, so he told us, some of his profits in an ice cream stand.
I don’t know all the details of his life from there before he came into our lives again, and it no longer matters, but what does matter is who Garry Robertson really was: a happy gentle soul who left a mark of gladness behind him wherever he stepped.
He worked with us for a time – perhaps two years – and we became friends forever. His warmth pervaded our office; his happy smile and easy ways were a joyful glue that held many of our sales staff together. He was never angry, sad or down; he was always positive, cheerful and filled with hope.
His dog, Riley was just like his master. Riley used to come to the office with Garry every day. He was the most unobtrusive dog, but he would sally into my office and stand there waiting – waiting, until I said, “Good morning, Riley!” Then he would leave with dignity, his tail held high, off to the more serious business of the day.
The serious business had a lot to do with the unofficial sales meetings that took place in the salesroom every morning. The guys and girls would turn their chairs toward the centre of the room and talk to each other about the incidentals of their evenings, their hopes, their plans. Garry sat somewhere near the middle of this circle, at 12 o’clock, and Riley sat beside him. As each person spoke, Riley would look at them, considering every word with great courtesy. Then as the talk moved on, Riley would turn his attention and his head accordingly, like a small benediction. He would nod his approval of every speaker’s comments.
That was so much an imitation of Garry who listened with humility and humour and paid exact attention to what each person had to say.
Not that Garry was without his own ideas. It is because of him that we publish Lifestyles 55. At the time he worked with us, he was on the board of the Manitoba Society of Seniors. They were in dire need of a publisher and Garry made the introduction to Gerry Hewitt, our advertising director of the day. We became the publishers of the MSOS Journal, the forerunner of Lifestyles 55, and we enjoyed a good relationship with the organization for many years. Eventually, however, they employed a young American woman who had a different style and she terminated the relationship – the rest, as they say, is history.
But our friendship with Garry remained long after he had left us and we became staunch supporters of his new passion, CJNU Radio. Garry was very much instrumental in the formation of this new station.
But Garry would not have said this. He was simply proud to be involved.
In the last few years of his life, Garry lost many things: his adored wife, Riley, his eyesight and his independence due to diabetes and finally cancer, but he never lost his capacity for optimism. Glenn and I saw him at the cancer clinic not long before he passed away. He was still the same positive, gentle soul, our Garry. “They predicted I would be dead three and a half years ago,” he laughed, happy at fooling fate, “but I’m still here.”
That is true, Garry. You are still here, in our hearts and our minds, an imposing figure of happiness and a source of joy. Thank you for blessing our lives.