Henry Champ was an absolutely terrific journalist, and in that old fashioned Victorian sense, a gracious gentleman.
Henry’s career spanned the evolution of modern journalism.
He was born in the Brandon (Manitoba) General Hospital (as was I, five years later). As a teenager, I was a member of something called the High School Militia. It was something more than Army Cadets, but less than the regular Militia. Henry, then a regular Militia Lieutenant, volunteered to be in charge of us. He had that magic that cannot be taught: he was a natural leader. Today it’s called charisma or charm; but that suggests something vaguely artificial. With Henry it was the real thing. Those who knew him will know what I mean.
It was from Henry that I first heard much of the Korean War, and the PPCLI; and Kapyong.
He entered journalism as a sports reporter with the Brandon Sun (as years later did I, only as a summer intern in charge of weddings and seniors’ birthdays and funerals).
Henry went on to cover just about everything a journalist could hope for: wars, summits, elections, disasters, peace conferences, riots and revolutions. Among his many postings: he was with W5 at CTV, for NBC news in Europe, and in Washington for CTV and then CBC Television for many years.
Behind his disarming impish, Mona Lisa-type smile; and his engaging warmth, lurked a razor-sharp mind that raced ahead like a rocket.
He always took his work very seriously indeed, but never himself.
And he never got confused into thinking the reporter was the story. To Henry, The Story was always the story.
Henry was generous with what he knew … and Henry knew a lot. Many times I would call. saying, Henry, I need: a senator (or whatever: lobbyist, or CIA agent, or State Dept official) who was an expert in _____ (file in the blank). Henry always would know precisely such a person and then phone to set up a meeting.
A few years ago, a young student from Brandon University wanted to go to Washington for Obama’s inauguration. I asked Henry to suggest some inexpensive hotels/motels/hostels where the student could stay and any public events he might attend. In a heartbeat, Henry said the student — a complete stranger — could stay at his house, and where ever Henry went that that day, the student could come along. It was a front-row-to-history experience that student will carry in his memory to the end of his days.
In the 1950s, Henry flunked out of Brandon University. I don’t think he got beyond First Year. It puzzled me because Henry was a bright sharp guy. A few years later (when I was a student at the same place), I asked him: “Henry, why didn’t you ever graduate?”
“Bridge,” he smiled. “Too much bridge.”
Henry, the dropout, ended up being Chancellor.
I am making a journalist’s mistake here that Henry would never have committed. I’ve ended up writing mostly about me. But I’m not the story. Henry’s the story. Sadly.