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"MUH" 2003 Obituary


MUHTADIE 

MUHTADIE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-08-04 published
News editor was expert adventurer
Globe journalist was known for attention to detail, knife-sharp instincts and wit
By Luma MUHTADIE Monday, August 4, 2003 - Page R5
In The Globe and Mail newsroom, he was known as "Snapper."
Some say it was because Alan DAWSON could get to the heart of a story or make a headline decision in a snap. Others say it was because he demanded instant action from those around him. And a few refer to his getting a little "snappish" around deadline.
Whatever the take on his nickname, Mr. DAWSON was seen by all as a small and quirky, yet assertive newsman, with knife-sharp instincts, a keen attention to detail and a biting wit.
Mr. DAWSON died in his sleep last Sunday -- at the age of 86 two days after checking into Nanaimo General Hospital with undetected bronchial cancer.
During his 34-year tenure at The Globe, Mr. DAWSON worked his way up the chain of command from senior slot man, reigning over the editing process, to news editor and then assistant managing editor. During his last few years at The Globe he helped choose and implement the computer system that made The Globe the first Canadian newspaper to enter the technological age.
Mr. DAWSON is best remembered for his gifts as a news editor on the front lines.
"He had incredible instincts," said Clark DAVEY, who worked with Mr. DAWSON for 27 years at The Globe and Mail. "You could put a pile of stories in front of him and he'd pick out the four or five most important ones -- and he was right 99 per cent of the time," Mr. DAVEY said.
As deadline approached one evening in the 1960s, Mr. DAWSON picked up a review, written by the paper's drama critic Herbert WHITTAKER, of a production of Oklahoma! at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Mr. WHITTAKER's first line was an admission that the musical had been revived so many times that there was nothing left to say. So Mr. DAWSON cut only the first sentence off and ran it to print.
When Mr. WHITTAKER saw his one-line review the following morning, he was livid.
But the phones started ringing and letters poured in, congratulating Mr. WHITTAKER for his witty criticism of the playhouse for overloading its bill with revivals.
Mr. DAWSON was also an adventurer outside the newsroom, with a passion for fishing and game hunting. As a news editor his pages often featured obscure articles on these hobbies, and he wrote a weekly hunting column for The Globe.
In a detailed, first-person account of an expedition in the Northwest Territories, published on September 25, 1959, Mr. DAWSON proudly described travelling "nearly 6,000 miles in one week by car, train, airliner, truck, bush plane, outboard skiff, musking buggy and on foot" to become "the first successful wild buffalo hunter of the 20th century."
Prior to that trip (and since 1893), the government had banned buffalo hunting because Canadian herds had dwindled almost to extinction. But a spill of thousands of animals from Wood Buffalo National Park into Fort Smith prompted authorities to sanction a hunting expedition for the first 10 people to apply.
"The opportunity came across the news desk, but he made sure he sent his own entry in before he ran the story in the paper," recalled his wife, Marilyn DAWSON, with a laugh.
One of Mr. DAWSON's prized possessions was a rifle crafted by his closest friend, Harry HICKEY, who owned Holman and Hickey Custom Gunsmith, a shop in Toronto, for 30 years.
"He knew guns inside out," his wife said, "And if someone misidentified a gun in a story, he would go ballistic."
Many readers derided him for describing his hunting techniques and successes. In a letter to the editor, one reader referred to Mr. DAWSON as "nothing more than a pasty-faced, beady-eyed killer."
Mr. DAWSON took the critique with a grain of salt and a smile. During a Halloween costume party for the newsroom that followed, he showed up in his hunting garb, toting a shotgun with a toy tiger dangling by its tail from the end of the barrel. He'd applied a pasty flour mixture to his face and sequins around his eyes.
"DAWSON's face was a sight to behold... the ultimate pasty-faced, beady-eyed killer had been created," recalled Wilfred SLATER, who worked alongside Mr. DAWSON on The Globe's copy desk for 25 years.
Alan DAWSON was born in Toronto on December 24, 1917, to S.B. and Anne Beatrice DAWSON. His father was publisher of The Stratford Beacon in Stratford, Ontario, before becoming badly injured in a vehicle accident. The family moved around a lot before returning to Toronto, where Mr. DAWSON graduated from Jarvis Collegiate.
Given the scarce employment opportunities in the Depression era, Mr. DAWSON hitched a ride on a series of freight trains heading to Northern Ontario, working in lumber camps during the day and sleeping in local jails to stay sheltered from the cold.
He returned to Toronto in 1936 and worked six days a week as a copy boy at The Toronto Daily Star, earning a dollar a day.
He remained at the Star until 1948, but it was a period broken by three years as a flight engineer with the Royal Canadian Air Force -- he carried out 31 raids over Germany with a crew that returned alive.
Mr. DAWSON came to The Globe in 1948, because they offered a dollar more per week and he needed the money to support his first wife and his son, Alan David DAWSON.
As an editor in 1963, he hired a young reporter in the women's department named Marilyn COOPER, who later became features editor. They married in 1970.
The two enjoyed many hobbies together. They bought an old farmhouse on a 10-acre plot north of Pickering, Ontario, and renovated it themselves; they took their dogs on long walks, and made regular trips to an old-fashioned fishing camp called Marathon in the Florida Keys. They also bought a recreational vehicle and drove around the continent from Newfoundland to Manitoba, Alaska to Colorado, each time following a different route.
"He was a type-A personality -- go, go, go," recalled his wife. "And when he retired he wanted to do something as well."
The couple eventually settled on Vancouver Island in 1994, and Mr. DAWSON went on his final fishing trip three years ago. Mr. DAWSON didn't want an elaborate funeral. He told his family he did not want to be buried because he was claustrophobic, opting for a private cremation with his ashes scattered along the water insisting the water be warm rather than cold.
His wife has decided to go on with the couple's yearly August roast-beef barbecue that the two had already planned for their Friends before Mr. DAWSON died. She says she'll do everything precisely the way he liked it -- with a special request to the butcher that the beef be hung for four to five weeks ahead of time so it's extra juicy and turned slowly on a rotisserie over charcoal on the special day.

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