Monday, 26 January 2009

Garf memories

Updated 29/01/09
Memories of Garfield "Garf" Webb, a Toronto Sun production vet who died Friday from a heart attack in his Newtonville home at 61.

Chance Webb, son of John, nephew of Garf: "I have many great memories of my Uncle Garf. In particular, he offered unbelievable support when my dad (John) died at too young of a heart attack.

After several golfing trips with Garf and some free golf lessons he gave continually, my game was much better and I had coped with the loss of my father. It is an absolute tragedy that a similar fate awaited Garf.

He will be sadly missed by all of us.

I have truly enjoyed reading all of your posts and I would love reading any "Webb" stories that any of you are willing to share.

Thanks for the memories."

Andy Donato, Toronto Sun Day Oner editorial cartoonist: "It was Glen Woodcock and I that hired John Webb in 1971 to start the comp room. Garf was the duplicate of his brother when it came to production.

I was a close friend of John's and still miss him today when I walk the halls of the Sun. Garf was more the quiet type, but a great guy."

Lorrie Goldstein, senior associate editor of the Toronto Sun: "While I 'knew of' Garf more than I knew him personally, what I knew impressed me tremendously.

While we journalists like to think the paper couldn't get out without us, without Garf it literally would never have gotten out, period.

It's very sad to hear of the passing of yet another legendary member of the Sun family who was so instrumental to our success. All of us here at the Sun owe him a great deal and I extend my sincere condolences to his family."

John Downing, Day Oner and former editor of the Toronto Sun: "There was a feeling as the Sun rose that we could do anything. Especially in production. Especially because of the Webb brothers.

John and Garf were woven into the web of the paper. Too irreverent for the brass, perhaps, because they knew where all the bodies were buried, and not just in the press room. Too often playing golf when a command performance was requested. Too often with the quizzical look at the Tuesday afternoon meeting where the department heads plotted the rest of the week, and occasionally against the establishment, both outside and inside the walls of 333.

In an operation where even a new typewriter was a luxury, new presses, especially new presses installed in-house without rented experts, were mysterious wonders understood only by the Webbs.

The production problems were enormous. We had just finished putting together some sort of composing room in the basement of the Eclipse building when there was a huge rain storm. The basement flooded. The Webbs said we could put out a paper if only we could get rid of several feet of water. I called the fire chief and asked if his men weren't too busy, could they come down the street and pump out our basement and, ahem, I hope there's no charge.

Done instantly. No charge.

There has always been a wonderful relationship between the firefighters and the newspapers, but there has never been a wonderful relationship between city council and the Sun. Some aldermen from the old council before amalgamation dreamed up a scheme that would accomplish three things: show how "green" they were, punish the Sun and get rid of one of those damn newspaper boxes on main corners. So they cooked up a bylaw that said that the Toronto newspapers had to use a certain percentage of recycled newsprint before they could use public property for their boxes.

These aldermen just knew in their smug arrogance that the Star and Globe would meet such a requirement but that the upstart Sun wouldn't do such a sensible thing. Except they should have checked. Turned out that the Toronto Sun had contracted to buy every last tonne of recycled newsprint in Ontario and the Globe and the Star not only didn't recycle, they wouldn't be able to.

I marched into Garf's office to congratulate him. I said I knew he had built and lived in a log cabin, but I had no idea that he was so "green" as to make the Sun the poster newspaper for the environmental movement that generally hated us.

Turned out that he really wasn't listening to the environmentalists, he just thought "it was a good idea." There was no preening about how you had to be sensitive to nature, just an aw-shucks pragmatic approach that it seemed to make a lot of sense.

That was Garf Webb, and that was John, who was always the more tempestuous. I wish they had never left us. The fact that they didn't finish at the Sun is more a condemnation of the Sun brass than of them."

Len Fortune, former Toronto Sun graphics chief: "I had the privilege of working with both of the Webb brothers: Both gentlemen - actually, John was known as "Gentleman John."

John hired me in December 1977 and I started on January 9, 1978 - and it was on that day that I was introduced to Garf.

Ironically, it was Garf who was always there to support me when Gentleman John would utter those overwhelming words, "Correct me if I'm wrong, Len."

In those days, through the generosity and the vision of Doug Creighton, John, Garf and I were regularly sent out of town to seminars, and in the process I was always teamed with either John or Garf.

I still have great memories of those trips, the bulk of them in the States.

As I was shocked when John died so young, I'm equally moved by the passing of Garf, whose integrity, dedication and talent complemented a rising Sun."

John Iaboni, Day Oner and former Toronto Sun sports writer: "We are saddened to learn of the passing Garf Webb, another cherished member of the Toronto Sun Family.

The Webbs, John and Garf, were of great assistance to me. They and their crew willingly shared their production room expertise with editorial stiffs like me whenever my shifts called for late-night work and clearing pages.

More importantly, they were really good, fun-loving guys, always wanting to share a joke, talk sports or discuss the wacky news of the day.

The sight of either John or Garf looking at the first pages to come off the press was always something to behold because for them it was the completion of another day and night job well done.

They took pride in their work and did their part in making the Sun a family and fun place to work."

Memories of Garf can be e-mailed to TSF.

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