Frank Lillquist, the artist behind the Journal of Commerce’s (JOC) long-running cartoon series Sid the Contractor, died late last year at 72.
Sid’s cartoon exploits as a clumsy contractor have appeared in the JOC for more than 40 years.
Brian Martin, a former reporter, editor and publisher for the Journal, recalled his many years working with Lillquist. The two met in the 1970s when Martin left a job as a CBC Northern Service reporter to join the paper.
“In those days the JOC filled a three-storey building in Kitsilano (B.C.),” said Martin. “Frank was very talented and certainly a gentleman.”
But after Lillquist left the paper, it would be 10 years until to the two worked together again. By then Martin was the editor and Lillquist asked if the Journal would be interested in his cartoons. But the paper soon needed his reporting skills after the sudden death of another reporter. Lillquist moved up to editor not long after with Martin as publisher.
“He did a great job and was respected throughout the construction industry, but it was mainly his cartoons that stuck with everyone,” said Martin. “There would be Sid cartoons pinned up in offices all over the place, on the staff bulletin boards.”
He recalled many conversations he had with Lillquist where suddenly bits of paper would slide across the table with hand-drawn Sid cartoons summing up his thoughts in the issue.
“Ninety per cent were not even published,” said Martin. “They were just part of his conversation. It was just part of his life.”
Martin also recalled Lillquist being crucial in his efforts to launch “Building Right,” a series of books designed to help homebuilders navigate the permitting process in each major city in the Lower Mainland. Martin got the idea for the books while building his own home.
“I soon discovered construction was harder to do than to write about,” Martin said. “Frank developed the Sid character for those books and co-ordinated all the editorial content while I went from city to city talking to officials and breaking the ice. It was very successful.”
However, following a collapse in the real estate market, the series was cancelled.
After retiring from the paper, the two kept in touch.
“I bugged him like crazy to market that cartoon, but he never did,” said Martin. “He didn’t realize how good he was.”