By Submitted Article on May 7, 2020.
On April 27, I lost a good friend who was my mentor.
When I immigrated to Canada in 1988-89 and was looking for a job as a journalist, I got a list of all the community newspapers in Alberta and drove with my wife from Wetaskiwin all the way to Lethbridge and stopped in every small town on Highway 2 to submit my resume to the local newspapers. The response was not overwhelming, but when we arrived in the small town of Cardston south of Lethbridge, I was greeted by a friendly, jolly and tall gentleman who needed a reporter for his “Cardston Chronicle,” and that was Mr. Dan Barr.
Dan, a Canadian with Scottish ancestors, was skeptical when he talked with me and asked me how good my command of the English language was, because I had a heavy German accent then, but he promised to read my resume and get back to me as soon as possible. And he kept his word. A few days later, he phoned me and offered me a job. We drove back to Cardston and then to Lethbridge with Dan where he signed an Offer of Employment at the local employment and immigration office, and this document became my entrance ticket for Canada.
A few months later, I started working as a reporter for the “Cardston Chronicle,” and that became a very interesting and valuable chapter in my life. During the next three years, I learned a lot from Dan Barr and his wife Marie. Dan was the publisher and a jack of all trades who did not only sell advertising for his newspaper but was also able to repair anything, and Marie was the editor. I learned how to use a computer (this was 30 years ago), develop film and photographs in the darkroom (this was before digital), was able to improve my English, and many other things. And Dan, who liked to call me “the damn German,” sent me to many seminars where I could learn more and improve my journalistic skills.
Dan’s motto was “Work hard and party hard.” We spent many hours working at the newspaper office, including many evenings and weekends, but it was a lot of fun, because we were a good team, and when the paper was done, we had many social gatherings at Dan’s and Marie’s house, there was always a great Christmas party, and we celebrated our birthdays together. We were like a family.
But this family fell apart when Dan and Marie separated and sold the “Cardston Chronicle” in 1992, but I was able to find a new job and worked two years as a reporter for the Lethbridge Herald in Taber.
When I started my own newspaper in 1995, a monthly publication for German-speaking people in Alberta, Dan gave me some good advice, and I have often thought of him since then, especially in challenging situations, asking myself “What would Dan Barr do?” But Dan has admitted that he did not always make the right decisions, and I have learned from him that we can all learn from our mistakes.
The newspaper industry is not an easy business, especially in times of crisis, like we are experiencing now, but Dan has taught us with his cheerful attitude how it can be managed without getting burned out by the daily stress.
Dan Barr died from cancer on April 27, which was his 77th birthday, in palliative care at St. Michael’s Care Centre in Lethbridge. Rest in peace, my friend!
Arnim Joop is a German-Canadian journalist and publisher and editor of two ethnic newspapers which are based in Edmonton.