Montreal broadcasting legend Neil McKenty, 87, dies
Published Saturday, May 12, 2012 5:23PM EDT
MONTREAL - Neil McKenty, whose voice was a fixture on Montreal radio and TV for two decades, has died, aged 87 in Montreal.
McKenty moved to Montreal in 1972 where he began doing radio editorials on CJAD. He was soon co-hosting a call-in show, which he took over solo in 1977.
McKenty, a former Jesuit priest, stayed at the station until 1985, dominating the English airwaves and attracting a peak of 90,000 listeners. McKenty went on to host a TV show on CTV Montreal from 1987 to 1990.
McKenty had opened the door to a media career via small-town Ontario.
"He and his cousin bought an old Ford and got the stories in this little village of Hastings Ontario. He just loved radio. He used to listen to the radio and imitate the commentators and so on," said his widow Catharine McKenty.
Catharine McKenty told CTV Montreal that she first met her future longtime husband in 1972, just prior to his move to Montreal.
"I met him on the dance floor and we went out of 10 days and then he proposed," she said. "What an adventure. I mean he was just such an absolutely unique human being."
Another radio figure at CJAD knows what sort of influence McKenty had.
"Neil McKenty, especially for mom, was the moral compass of the city. He was outspoken, he was so intelligent, could break down any issue and he had a big heart," said sportscaster Rick Moffat.
Montreal journalist Alan Hustak, who was friends with McKenty for 50 years, described him to CTV Montreal as, "a natural communicator, with a great sense of analysis and a seasoned way of arguing."
"It was difficult to disagree because his arguments were so persuasive, so well-thought out and well-founded. He had substance, a questioning mind. There was depth and seasoning to him," said Hustak.
Hustak said that McKenty's style was different from that of radio hosts today, who tend to focus attention on themselves.
"His big secret was not to inject himself into anything," said Hustak. "It was the glory days of talk radio when people exchanged ideas."
McKenty wrote five books, including a 1997 memoir The Inside Story, in which he told of his past clinical depression, shock-therapy and suicidal impulses.
He thanked his wife and medical staff for helping him get through it.
McKenty remained active in public affairs to the end, sharing thoughts on his website, the Senior Times and frequent letters to newspapers.
According to information on his website, McKenty had been sick for several days and had recently fallen into a coma.
His last entry on his site, from May 1, was simply, "Sick again. Awaiting results of tests from my doctor. Expect to be be back with you soon."