As editor-in-chief at The StarPhoenix, I worked with Cam Fuller and I was also lucky to call him my friend. A short time after he died in December 2019, I went to the newsroom and sat at Cam’s desk. I had been asked to prepare a tribute for his funeral and I think I hoped to find some of his particular magic remaining, to tap into his brilliance and talent one more time.

“As his friend, however, what I will hold especially dear was his talent for living and his capacity for finding ways to make life better for those around him.”

Everything was as he left it, including his collection of knick-knacks, all stuff that brought him happiness: shells, rocks, pictures of his sons, and the old-fashioned ball glove with a baseball that he walked around with while thinking about what he wanted to write. There was a photo of the pedal bike he fixed up in a fantastic retro-chic manner.

I stayed in his chair, looking for help in how to summarize a rich life in a few words. Then, my eyes landed on a sticky note planted at the bottom of his monitor. The note contained a list of four words: Empathy, enjoyment, balance and kindness.

Isn’t it just like Cam to leave me a perfect selection of words to describe him? I am guessing he put them there as a reminder, an act of aspiration. But I would say he embodied empathy, joy, balance and kindness.

Cam’s wife and sons were the heart of all he did, and I believe it is the confidence that comes with being a well-loved man that allowed him to be so brave in his writing. He was free to live in the moment, to soak in the truth that arrives in everyday occurrences. That provided the fodder for his witty, nail-you-to-the-wall honest and often hilarious writing.

As the editor of the paper, and a fellow journalist, I want to honour the gift of 30 years of his columns and reporting on the arts community. It is a stunning body of work. And because of his long career, Cam was a little famous in Saskatoon. All the perks and praise that come with having a public persona did not turn his head, however. His clever commentary never came at the expense of the dignity of those he was reviewing. To be honest and kind at the same time takes a singular kind of faculty, and he had it.

So, that’s what I would say as his editor. As his friend, however, what I will hold especially dear was his talent for living and his capacity for finding ways to make life better for those around him.

Since his death, people have been sharing stories of the quiet – I’ll call them sneaky – ways he took care of us all. There is the CD of music he thought someone would love. There is the job recommendation that arrived just at the right time. There was his taking the time to edit anybody’s work, no matter how busy he was with his own stuff.

He was thoughtful and intentional in his choices – from wearing red on Fridays to the gifts he would sneak onto your desk. When I bought a loft with 20-foot ceilings, he brought a squadron of balsa wood toy planes to fly around the space at my housewarming.

Cam’s life was cut short far too soon. I know I am not alone in finding this hard to accept. I am so glad, however, he got the time he did have here so right and lived so fully.

Heather Persson
Editor, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Myrtle Surjik was born and raised in Regina. She attended Central Collegiate and later Balfour Technical School. After a brief career as a beauty queen (Miss Grey Cup, 1951),  model and flight attendant, Myrtle married David Surjik, and together they raised four children in Regina.

Possessed of boundless energy, Myrtle combined family life with a life of service and community involvement. Running for city council, supporting the Douglas government’s initiatives on universal health care, pushing for reproductive rights and gender equality – these topics piqued her interest and received her passionate support. When she decided to return to school to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Saskatchewan (Regina Campus), she did so with commitment and determination. She graduated with distinction in 1977 and launched a new career, first as a social worker in the mental health field, and later as a professional with the Public Service Commission in human resources.

“Myrtle’s life was characterized by excellence in all she did. She was an anchor for her husband and children, a caring and wonderful friend, a passionate professional and advocate for the causes she believed in.”

This was a woman who was gifted with a razor-sharp intellect. Classmates and professors alike observed her analysis of each situation with her characteristic balance of the ideal and the practical. She was an accomplished debater and in class often took a contrarian position to inspire further discussion. The greatest fun was watching her debate gender equality in a women’s studies class. With her disarming style, and supported always by facts, statistics and logic, she took on all opponents with verve and a smile.

Fueled by a passion for education and an excellent mind, Myrtle thoroughly enjoyed her student experience and was also intensely interested in the future of education. She served on the Board of the University of Saskatchewan (1971-74) and was later the first woman to be appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Regina.

Beyond her academic pursuits and her career, Myrtle became well known for her community activism. She chose to serve in the areas that were deeply important to her, areas she felt were not receiving the attention they deserved. The issue of women’s participation at all levels in the workforce drove her to become involved in the Regina Council of Women. She became a leader in the Voice of Women organization. A firm believer in reproductive rights, she supported the Family Planning Association. Never losing her focus on the matter of gender equity, Myrtle became part of a group of women who made representation to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada in 1970.

As a member of the Board of Governors, she was appointed to the President’s Committee to Review the Status of Women at the University of Regina. A report from the University of Regina magazine stated that “she was concerned about the lack of women in the University administration at all levels.” She was so pleased when Dr. Vianne Timmons became the first woman president of her beloved alma mater.

Mental health was Myrtle’s other passion and in 1992, she received the Canada Health and Welfare Volunteer Award, recognizing her exemplary and valuable contribution towards improving the health and social well-being of Canadians. She was always completely open about her father’s experience with schizophrenia and in the late 1980s began to dedicate herself to raising public awareness of the disease both locally and nationally. She rose to increasingly influential roles within the Schizophrenia Society, working first as the Regina president, later the Saskatchewan president and then serving on the national board.

She immersed herself in advocacy work, lobbying all levels of government to increase services and enhance research. She was a very effective fundraiser and pushed for greater public education and counselling services for families of individuals suffering from mental health challenges. Her fundraising initiatives resulted in the establishment of scholarships in the areas of social work, educational psychology and clinical psychology – all focused on understanding the illness better and providing more appropriate services to those affected by the illness. In 1996, Myrtle was recognized by the University of Regina as a Distinguished Alumnus for her outstanding work with the Schizophrenia Society.

Myrtle’s life was characterized by excellence in all she did. She was an anchor for her husband and children, a caring and wonderful friend, a passionate professional and advocate for the causes she believed in. Everything she did, she did with kindness and empathy. She will be remembered as a woman of great beauty, both inner and outer, and a woman of great warmth.

Bonnie DuPont
Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Regina 2008

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In the very first University of Regina Cougars basketball game I covered as a sports writer, Glen Nelson air-balled a jump shot straight out of bounds. No rim, no backboard, no mesh. And he was supposed to be the team’s best player!

While the fans reacted with shock and laughter, Nelson’s reaction was much more memorable: He slapped himself across the face. Hard. Twice.

“So stupid!” Nelson said afterwards. “Somebody needed to be punished for being that stupid.”

If the star player was that hard on himself, imagine how demanding he was of teammates and officials. There were no shortcuts, no uncontested rebounds and no excuses during Nelson’s five seasons (1980-85) with the Cougars. Playing before the advent of the three-point line, he set the team’s scoring record; it took 26 years and a few more career games for it be broken by Jeff Lukomski.

We talked about that during a visit in December 2018. Glen had just proudly shown me an ultrasound image of his grandchild. He was nibbling puffed-wheat cake and drinking his double-double. We were reminiscing about the good old days, about his prowess as a baseline-to-baseline player long before he was paralyzed from back surgery and dispatched to a wheelchair, only to start fending off cancer that kept causing his weakening bones to break, but never broke his spirit.

“I’ve still got the record for rebounds,” he reminded me, before adding with a chuckle, “Probably for turnovers, too.”

Glen Nelson was 61 when he died January 29, 2019.

As a basketball player, he was tall and strapping with a mischievous, needling sense of humour and a joyful zest for life. He once permed his hair — “10 bucks from a box,’’ he said — and the ensuing action photograph, taken when he was handling a basketball and wearing his Cougars jersey, regularly appeared in my newspaper, the Regina Leader-Post. He was the first star athlete I covered in my 30-year career as a journalist and one of my favourites.

He was proud but self-effacing about his basketball career. It started at Martin Collegiate because a teacher opened the gymnasium for anybody who wanted to shoot hoops. He excelled quickly, playing for high-level, under-21 teams before winning senior championships and taking the circuitous route back to university. Four times he was the Cougars’ MVP, three times a first-team conference all-star.

The Cougars weren’t very good when Nelson arrived with long-term teammates Mark Benesh BEd’85, MEd’07 and Warren Poncsak. But they started taking big steps forward when Ken Murray, his third coach in three seasons, took over the program. The improving Cougars soon attracted the team’s first all-Canadian, Chris Biegler BA’89, BASc’96, a Regina product who ultimately eschewed the more established, successful program at the University of Saskatchewan to join his hometown Cougars. Now the team proudly represents the University of Regina, and the institution is proud of the team.

After winning the President’s Award as the University’s top graduating athlete, Nelson went to Australia to play professionally. He returned to Regina, played senior basketball, got married, and went to Europe to play professional basketball. He played in Germany and Austria, where he later coached a women’s pro team before returning home and raising two daughters, Alexis and Katie.

When his young daughters needed a coach, Nelson coached and tried wooing them to basketball. He often joked about losing his daughters to volleyball, their mother’s sport, but his pride and love for them were obvious. Glen coached some more and later became a basketball referee and scorekeeper.

When he was inducted into the Regina Sports Hall of Fame, Nelson left the hospital and doffed the surgical mask he was supposed to wear before giving an honest, emotional speech to an audience that included lots of his closest, caring friends.

“I’m so, so lucky,” he said, after telling the crowd he forgave the surgeon whose mistake left him paralyzed from the chest down and, in the same sentence, said with a grin it was OK because it meant he couldn’t feel any pain when breaking a leg while pulling on his pants.

LIT, a well-known tournament he yearnfully never got to play in, had announced Nelson was going to be its special guest in 2019. He died before the tournament, but the organizers honoured him posthumously. It truly thrilled him, knowing a Martin Monarch was finally going to be treated nicely inside the Luther High School gymnasium.


Darrell Davis BA’82
Author of six sports books, journalism instructor, Canadian Football Hall of Fame member

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