Peter Gzowski Biography
Peter John Gzowski known informally as “Mr. Canada”, or “Captain Canada”,was a Canadian broadcaster, writer and reporter, most famous for his work on the CBC radio shows This Country in the Morning and then Morningside. He was born on July 13, 1934 .Gzowski was born in Toronto, Ontario, to Margaret McGregor and Harold Edward Gzowski. His paternal great-great-grandfather was Sir Casimir Gzowski, of Polish nobility, who became a prominent engineer in Canada, noted in particular for his work on the Grand Trunk Railway and the International Bridge. Sir Casimir Gzowski was an aide de campe of Queen Victoria – who knighted him – and briefly acted as the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, when his predecessor died in office.
The marriage of Gzowski’s parents ended shortly after Gzowski was born, with Harold Gzowski leaving the marriage for a depression-era vagabond life. Gzowski and his mother were supported by Harold Gzowski’s family, following Harold Gzowski’s departure. Gzowski’s mother then married Reg Brown, a sales manager of a local textile mill, and the family relocated to Galt, Ontario, in 1939, when Gzowski was five.
Gzowski encountered difficulties succeeding in high school in Galt. During the Christmas break in his Grade 11 year, Gzowski reconnected with his father in Toronto, living with him for a short period, before his father encouraged him to attend Ridley College boarding school, in St. Catharines, Ontario, which Gzowski’s father had also attended. Gzowski’s mother died the summer following the commencement of Gzowski’s studies at Ridley College. Gzowski’s mother was 40; Gzowski was 16. Gzowski attended the University of Toronto but never graduated; he was later awarded 11 honorary degrees.
Peter Gzowski Career
Midway through university, he took time off to work for the Timmins Daily Press. During his last year, 1956–57, at the U of T, he edited the student newspaper The Varsity. In the spring of 1957, he became city editor of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. After a few months in Moose Jaw, he was hired by the Chatham Daily News. In September 1958, he joined the staff of Maclean’s magazine. When he was 28 he became the youngest-ever managing editor of Maclean’s. In the 1960s he moved to the Toronto Star and became the last editor of The Star Weekly magazine until it was sold in 1968.
His first regular radio show was Radio Free Friday, in the years 1969 to 1970. In the year 1971 he became host of radio the CBC’s This Country in the Morning. From 1976 to 1978 he hosted the television show 90 Minutes Live on CBC Television. He returned to his former morning radio program in 1982 , which had by now been renamed Morningside, where he remained until 1997. He also narrated a few Heritage Minutes. He returned to Moose Jaw, to host his last episode of Morningside from the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort. In 1986, Gzowski held the first fundraising golf tournament for literacy, a cause that was very important to him. That tournament has evolved and is now held in every province and territory of Canada and has raised more than $13-million for volunteer-based literacy programs.
Throughout most of his life, Gzowski had been a heavy smoker of cigarettes, consuming up to 75 cigarettes per day. In 2000, Gzowski stopped smoking through attending a treatment centre for persons with addictions. A few months following the completion of treatment, Gzowski developed emphysema, following a chest infection. By the fall of 2001, he was largely confined to his home, breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank. In 2001, he contributed the essay “How to Quit Smoking in Fifty Years or Less” to Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast, edited by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, and published by Greystone Books.
The essay was reprinted in September 2001 by the Globe and Mail as “Out of breath”. He also wrote the essay “Life after smoking”, which was published in 50+ Magazine in June 2001 and included in A Peter Gzowski Reader, published by McClelland and Stewart in October, 2001. The book is a collection of Gzowski’s written works, commencing from his time as a writer for The Varsity at the University of Toronto, collected and with commentary by Gzowski. Gzowski died of emphysema in Toronto on January 24, 2002.
Peter Gzowski Personal Life
Gzowski was divorced from his first wife, Jennie Lissaman, from Brandon, Manitoba, whom he met while residing in Moose Jaw and with whom he had five children,Alison, Maria, Peter, John and Mick. He was survived also by two common-law partners, Jan Walter and Gillian Howard, whom he called his “Partner for Life”. Gzowski was the father of a son, born in 1961, from an extra-marital relationship. Following his death, his remains were placed in the family tomb at St. James Cemetery in Toronto.
Peter Gzowski Honours
- 1974, 1985, 1987 ACTRA Awards for the best host-interviewer on radio
- 1981 – National Magazine Award for his profile of Wayne Gretzky
- 1982 – Became host of Morningside on September 6.
- 1984 – Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of New Brunswick
- 1986 – Officer of the Order of Canada
- 1988 – Honorary Doctor of Laws, Trent University
- 1995 – Governor General’s Performing Arts Award
- 1997 – International Peabody Award for broadcasting
- 1997 – Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society
- 1998 – Companion of the Order of Canada.
- 1999 – Appointed Chancellor of Trent University, a position he held until his death
- 2002 – The Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy was funded by the federal government and named in honour of Gzowski’s work in promoting literacy in Canada
- 2003 – Gzowski College at Trent University opens in honour of Peter Gzowski
- 2006 – The Peter Gzowski Festival of Stories
- 2006 – Georgina Public Libraries renamed their Sutton Branch the Peter Gzowski Branch
Peter Gzowski Books
- 1974 Peter Gzowski’s Book about This Country in the Morning (Hurtig Publishers)
- 1979 Peter Gzowski’s Spring Tonic (Hurtig Publishers)
- 1980 The Sacrament: A True Story of Survival (Atheneum Books)
- 1981 The Game of Our Lives (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1983 An Unbroken Line (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1985 Morningside Papers (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1987 The New Morningside Papers (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1989 The Latest Morningside Papers (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1989 The Private Voice: A Journal of Reflections (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1991 The Fourth Morningside Papers (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1994 The Fifth (and Probably Last) Morningside Papers (McClelland and Stewart)
- 1998 The Morningside Years (McClelland and Stewart; with foreword by Dalton Camp)
- 1998 Friends, Moments, Countryside: Selected Columns from Canadian Living, 1993-1998 (McClelland and Stewart)
- 2001 A Peter Gzowski Reader (McClelland and Stewart)