(John Curry and John Brummell at Ottawa City Hall when John Brummell received the Mayor’s Community Builder Award in 2017. Photo: Deborah Brummell)
John Brummell and John Curry were long-time best friends for 40 years. Not only did they work side-by-side to bring us the stories in the Stittsville News, the two men shared so much more together in life. I spoke with John this week to express my condolences and the call turned into hours of reminiscing. We went from quiet tears to chuckles as John shared so many stories he shared from his heart. Below are just a handful of the memories John shared.
It was 1979 when John Brummell dropped into the Stittsville News office of John Curry, where his Mom Mary Curry operated her Antiques Shop, at the former Bell’s Service Centre. John wanted to see for himself what the newspaper business in a small community was all about. While there, he mentioned in passing that in his former line of work he had built a solid career in photography and had some writing skills. After a conversation with his mother, Mary, a decision was made. John and Mary would hire John.
There was an immediate connection with our personalities meshing for whatever reason. The two quickly became known as ‘the two Johns’. We came from separate religions and political affiliation, but always respected each other’s views. There were so many highlights from our years together. When we were number 1 in the industry across Canada with Metroland and had the smallest audience. So winning this award was special.
Sitting at the annual figure skating shows here in Stittsville. There may have been 130 kids, but John made sure he got every name to put in the article. John would say, “the kids worked so hard”. They were happy to see their names in the paper. Or at the local hockey game, John could be relied on to get those names for the photos and article. The Scouts, Brownies, Girl Guides, school graduations, he covered them all. He loved supporting the youth and for some as they grew up, writing about their success, be it Julie Steggall for skiing or Matt Bradley for hockey.
The greatest honour for both of us was with our firefighters. We were nominated to receive the Ontario Firefighters Award for our coverage of their stories here in Stittsville and area. We both were treated like gold and we were so proud to drive up to Toronto with our firefighters – this was a moment we never forgot.
I don’t know anyone who knows this other than those present, but we got married too. What?! We were in Carleton Place to receive an award and I showed up in a tux and John asked what’s the occasion? I had a meeting to attend after the event we were at and the call was to wear a tux. So John disappeared and it was time for us to be front and centre – no John. Next thing I see – John in the doorway with full make-up and dressed in a wedding gown. He marches in, had arranged for someone to play the Wedding March as he came up to the front of the room. I couldn’t believe it, but yes I could, John has the best sense of humour of anyone I know. I never knew when he would come out with a line or be planning his next shenanigan. And yes, we accepted our award just as we were.
John loved hotdogs. There wasn’t anywhere we went that he wouldn’t be looking for a hotdog – especially at the fall fairs or at a local BBQ.
It was not unusual to not be able to have a good long chat as often as we would have wanted when we worked together. I have a photo from one of our years covering the Richmond Fair. We were sitting on a park bench in the fairgrounds with a huge tractor in the background while having a good chat – I love that photo.
On Sundays, together we would prepare the layout for the weekly editions of the Stittsville News in John’s basement. Saturday he never missed Church so we always prepared the editions on Sunday. John loved the old country music. – the Carter Family, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams to name just a few. I’d put on the old country tunes, play them loud, and say ‘sing John sing’. We had a grand time putting the paper together.
Well, we’d be done with the layout and John would get a call from someone with a story. He’d be jotting down his notes on his scrap of paper then his fingers would fly across the keyboard. I don’t know how many keyboards he went through over the years, but a lot! He would say to me, we have to add another sheet to the paper and that story from that call would go in and we’d add a few others from the backburner, along with photos. To produce the paper was not cheap in those days, but to John money was no object when it came to the Stittsville News. Even if he had been broke, John would still have added that one more page no matter the cost. I always let John choose the photos for each edition.
When I was awarded the Mayor’s Community Builder Award in 2017, John could not have been prouder and as a wonderful friend, he was there beside me sharing in the celebration.
When I retired, John and I always found the time to get together for a cup of tea while chatting about whatever was of interest that day. It was like we had never missed a beat. I’m really going to miss those cups of tea.
John was never a boss – working with John was like a breath of fresh air. I always relied on his friendship, companionship and brotherly love. Since the demise of the Stittsville News, I see how reporting has changed because of societal changes. Local news will never be the same.
Although John never married, he was not lonesome – his brain was busy all the time. He always took the time to talk to the people, developing an association.
Last Friday evening, I lost my oldest, dearest, best friend. Rest easy John.