Longtime CBC broadcaster Lister Sinclair died in a Toronto hospital Monday morning at age 85.
Sinclair joined the public broadcaster in 1944 and is perhaps best known as host of the radio program Ideas, a position he held for 16 years. He retired from CBC in 1999.
Sinclair wrote dozens of radio and television plays during his career and spent time as host of CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things.
His distinctive voice enriched a number of CBC programs, including Front Page Challenge, Telescope, Horizon, Festival, Court of Opinion, Wayne and Shuster, and Morningside.
He served as vice-president of the CBC and helped organize the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists, now known as the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA).
Born in Mumbai, India — then known as Bombay — to Scottish parents, Sinclair was raised in England. In 1985, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
Bernie Lucht, Sinclair’s longtime friend and the executive producer of Ideas, said he was saddened by the news, but was honoured to have worked with him.
“My lasting memory is the enormous privilege it was to have been able to touch a compassionate genius.”
The veteran journalist was a funny, mischievous and gentle person with an eclectic mind, said Lucht.
“He was simply a remarkable man,”‘ said Lucht. “He was brilliant, compassionate, had a wide-ranging mind with an expertise in everything from poetry, to mathematics, to music, to literature, to culture.
“He felt that the job of humanity was to find out what it was about, what we were about and what our surroundings, the universe into which we had been born, were about.”
Former governor general and CBC broadcaster Adrienne Clarkson said she shared a working space with Sinclair when she joined the CBC in 1965.
“You were the beneficiary of Lister knowing a lot,” she said. “He was not only a polymath; he was a prodigy.”
In 1985, Sinclair was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
Four years ago, Sinclair became a MasterWorks honouree for his play Hilda Morgan, which was controversial when he wrote it in 1949 because it featured a pregnant unmarried woman considering an abortion.
He also worked with the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, a national charitable organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing access to Canada’s film, television, radio and music/sound recording heritage.
Lucht said Sinclair once said he wanted to die learning.
“He was the kind of person, I think, who wanted to die in his boots,” he said. “He did not want to stop work at all.”
Ideas will broadcast a three-hour tribute to Sinclair, starting Monday night at 9 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. in Newfoundland) on CBC Radio One. It will continue Tuesday and Wednesday.