Obituary of Cameron Graham
John Cameron (Cam) Graham, CBC Television Producer
Back in the “Days before Yesterday”, when the world was black and white, Cam Graham left a promising career as an announcer at CBO in Ottawa and started making political documentaries for the new medium, television. He told his father, then the Minister at the old Dominion United Church in Ottawa, that journalism and broadcasting were to be his life’s work. His father thought for a moment and then said that he was pleased that they would both be in the business of communicating ideas, although he thought that his were more substantial.
By the time Cam retired from the CBC in 2000 he had produced many substantial award-winning television series and programs. Viewed today, they document the extraordinary changes in Canadian society during and after the 1960s and 1970s as much as their ostensible subject-matter: they include “The Style is the Man Himself” (1968) about the rise of Pierre Trudeau; “The Tenth Decade” (1971) about the emergence of modern Canada during the late 1950s and 1960s; “The Canadian Establishment” (1980), a television version of Peter C. Newman’s book about big business in Canada; and “Flight: The Passionate Affair” about the history of aviation in Canada. He produced several other public affairs programs, many featuring host Patrick Watson including “Some Honourable Members” and “The Watson Report”. For 25 years, Cam taught documentary filmmaking at the Carleton School of Journalism.
John Cameron Graham died at Owen Sound, Ontario on September 8, 2020 at the age of 88. Cam met Jocelyn Sanderson at Dominion Church in 1953 and they were together for over 70 years. Jocelyn died in February 2019 and Cam died this month of a broken heart. Cam and Joc had three children: Sandy (Wendy-Anne Jones), Deb (Charly Reithmeier) and James; six grandchildren, Michael (Rebecca Morey), Laura (Peter Hrkal) and Kathryn Reithmeier, Mackenzie Graham (Samantha Bradley), Jaya Levy and the late William Levy. He was overjoyed to meet his great-granddaughter Emilia Jocelyn Reithmeier at Christmas 2019. He also leaves his sister-in-law Carol (Barrie Laughton), his nieces Jocelyn Mather and Janet Angus, his cousin Arlene Anderson and family, long-time friends Alec and Jane-Anne Douglas and many other dear relatives and friends.
In 1966, Cam and Joc bought “L’Aventure”, an old wooden boat mouldering at a dock in Manotick, Ontario. The boat , now renamed “Dragonfly”, was a veteran of the Dunkirk evacuation, brought to Canada by a Canadian general in the early 1960s. The boat became Cam’s second passion: after years of hard work by the entire family, the boat was restored and cruised the Rideau Lakes every summer. Cam helped start the Manotick Classic Boat Club and enjoyed displaying the boat at shows in the Rideau Lakes and Thousand islands.
On retirement, Cam and Joc moved to Leith, Ontario where they restored the old Cameron family home, a log house built in the 1850s. We enjoyed many wonderful family dinners there, trying to persuade severe-looking relatives to leave their picture frames and join us at the table. Cam and Joc went on to organize a committee to restore the old Leith United Church and then helped to run a summer classical music concert series to feature the gorgeous acoustics of the restored church.
Cam loved music and musicians. All of his programs featured original music written by Canadian composers and performed by Canadian musicians. He would bring home reels of tapes from his television recording sessions in Toronto and play all the takes and retakes for us. He lovingly curated the annual Christmas concert at the Leith Church and supported giving bursaries to young local talent. To the great embarrassment of his teenaged children, he would broadcast British music of the 1940s through a loudspeaker as the boat approached any public wharf.
Cam brought music, history and his boat altogether in his final film, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”, a documentary about the little ships crossing the channel back to Dunkirk on the 45th anniversary of the evacuation. In the film, Charles Ritchie, the Canadian diplomat, says of Dunkirk, “I felt as if I was living in history”. That’s what Cam was always striving for in his programs and in life: using music and images to help Canadians understand and appreciate their history together.
Contributions to the maintenance of the Historic Leith Church in tribute to Cam may be made by e-transfer to the treasurer at email@example.com. No password is required. Cheques, payable to The Leith Summer Festival, may be mailed to Historic Leith Church, 419134 Tom Thomson Lane, Leith, ON, N0H 1V0. Tax receipts will be forwarded in due course for amounts over $20.
Condolences and memories may be shared on the Brian E. Wood Funeral Home website: woodfuneralhome.ca