I first met Brian Martin, former editor of the Journal of Commerce, in the 1980s. I had just returned to Canada after a couple of years of living dangerously abroad and was hoping to carve out a career for myself in Vancouver as a freelance journalist and writer.
I was young and full of enthusiasm and ideas, but green as grass, so I was lucky that one of the first doors I knocked on was Brian’s. At the time the Journal’s offices were on West 12th Avenue in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, not far from where I was living.
I showed him some writing samples and I guess he decided they were good enough to take a chance on me.
I don’t remember what my first writing assignment was, but he took the story I had written and told me to submit my invoice. He was sufficiently tactful that I didn’t find out how bad my copy was until I read the edited story in the paper.
After that inauspicious debut, Brian gave me plenty of valuable tips for writing and interviewing and I took them to heart. It is thanks in part to Brian Martin that I’m still in the freelance writing game 30 years later.
Brian wasn’t always 100 per cent user-friendly. On occasion he could be acerbic and impatient. But I knew that beneath that sometimes-gruff exterior beat the heart of someone who really cared about other people.
Brian and I lost touch over the years. The last time I had any contact with him was a year ago. In the past I had interviewed him every year for some wise comment on the VRCA (Vancouver Regional Construction Association) Awards of Excellence.
But last year his uncharacteristic response was that he didn’t have anything to tell me. That certainly didn’t sound like the Brian Martin I had known. I knew he was very sick and that his condition had been deteriorating. I hadn’t realized how sick he was until I received a note about his passing. So, I was shocked, but not surprised, to hear that he had died.
Thank you, Brian. You were a good friend and mentor when I needed it, and I will always be grateful for the example that you set.