"Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest." –Georgia O'Keefe, famed American artist
Hudson Mack may not agree entirely with the New Mexico painter. Accomplishments are important but the way they are done, the colour of them, is also important. Indeed what Hudson has done with where he has been is significant, colourful and, yes, even inspiring.
Hudson left his job as news director and senior anchor with CTV, Vancouver Island in February 2014, ending a 35-year career as a broadcaster. He was only 54 years old, a senior defined by retiring to a pension, but too young to collect government benefits. After the initial shock, Hudson needed to take stock and retool.
Hardly described as the retiring type, Hudson wasn't ready to don the mantel of being retired either. Once he had reorganized cupboards at home and packed the dishwasher his way (by his own admission, he's sometimes a control freak), he took on two projects dedicated to “giving back.” That attitude is worthy of anyone who has finished with a life-long career and faces the daunting task of re-defining oneself.
Reflection time is always healthy. As Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Hudson took that aphorism to heart when he decided to write his biography, *Unsinkable Anchor*. It would take a full year of disciplined work, but it provided a routine and a combination of looking backwards whilst living forward. His first chapter title, “The End,” revealed his process. "This is the end. But really, it is only the beginning."
In a manner of speaking, Hudson re-searched his life. First of all, it forced him to consider the legacy from the work years that underpinned him. He recognized that, for years, viewers welcomed him into their homes via the evening news and that his job gave him opportunities to meet and greet celebrities, as well as be a minor one himself.
Hudson considers meeting the Queen and Prince Philip and receiving the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, as well as attending a White House meeting with President George W. Bush and hosting a speaking engagement for Bill Clinton as apogees of being near the famous. But equally cherishing was meeting favourite television stars like the ones from *Coronation Street*; or news icons like Dan Rather and Lloyd Robertson; or helping Jeneece Erdoff, the fundraising wunderkind whose penny drives she began as a seven-year-old for Variety: The Children's Charity and raised millions of dollars.
Two other meaningful accolades during that work career that spoke to Hudson's dedication to community work were the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) "Gold Ribbon Award for Outstanding Community Service" in 2002 and the Royal Roads Chancellor's Community Recognition Award in 2009. They spoke to his giving back to the public he served. He was a recognizable figure and popular, which went some way to his book making it onto the BC Best Sellers list for a period of time in November and December 2015.
Brian Wood who was the agent for Hudson and another West Coast newscaster, Tony Parsons, said, "Hudson has a no-stress, no-ego approach and, in this business, that's greatly refreshing. You can learn a lot by reading his memoir." Part of Hudson's motivation for writing was to inform his viewership about his career and decisions to leave, plus to tell about the important people in his life that he could never really thank while on the air.
Admittedly, deadline-driven from years in the newsroom, Hudson worked up to the last minute on the manuscript. Like many first-time authors, he found that some days the stories would come easily; on others the blank screen would stare back at him for hours. After polishing up a final draft, he worked with an editor, who helped condense some stories and eliminate others that may have been too “inside.” If he has any regrets about the book, Hudson says it’s who and what got left out.
Both in his book and in interviews, Hudson was quick to include the importance of family to his career (wife, daughter and two sons, parents, brother and sister) but also of friends and work colleagues that meant a great deal to him. In fact, he wondered about writing another book with more details about the people he had to leave out due to editorial paring. One would be his late father-in-law, Ron Moores.
Hudson lost his own dad at an early age and adds that he was lucky to have had a father-in-law like Ron. A former sailor who survived going overboard off Acapulco once and endured being caught in a North Pacific hurricane on a weather ship, Ron had had an interesting life. He, too, had retired early, after being a firefighter in Oak Bay and at the Department of National Defence. Hudson attests that “Ronzie,” a nickname earned in the fire hall, could not have been a more supportive parent. For years, he was Hudson’s unofficial archivist, amassing a boxful of clippings and memorabilia. Ron had a terrific sense of humour, and a deep and abiding faith, which may have helped him through his own difficult upbringing. "He truly saw the glass as half-full," Hudson says, appreciatively.
Another project Hudson adopted was connected to his recognition by Royal Roads University. In January 2015, he agreed to teach a course, a venture he had never done before. It was in his area of expertise, "Writing for the Media" in the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication program. However, he was, and is still, impressed with the time involved in teaching, lecture preparations and marking. He is even adapting to educational instead of newsroom jargon, such as creating rubrics in assessment. A plus for his students, he hopes, is the advantage of 35 years of media networking. He can bring in high-profile guest lecturers, and get his students to visit and witness “behind-the-scene” newsrooms. He also recognizes that teachers never really know when they are being influential or inspiring, though the official assessment by his students has been very positive.
But how did he colour his work? Some of it is quirky. Hudson likes brilliantly coloured ties. He wore a plethora on air and, if someone admired a tie, he would often take it off and give it away. He even wore a tie the same hue as an infamous Lewinsky dress when introducing Bill Clinton at a lecture. "Give what you like away," Hudson advises. Another idiosyncrasy was toast. Perhaps, subconsciously, he was reminded of his father's morning show called Toast and Marmalade when he became instrumental in helping to organize a Breakfast Club under the auspices of CHEK and then at CTV for George Jay Elementary School, an inner-city school in Victoria. He helped secure an industrial toaster for the school and the aroma of toast each morning still brings back a “feel-good” memory and a sense of it being the right thing to do.
He also counts the 2009 Tour de Rock as a highlight, an annual Vancouver Island 1,000-km cycling tour under the umbrella of Cops For Cancer to raise money for cancer research. Hudson was working for CTV (then known as A-Channel) with a very good support team behind him. Together, through fashion shows, car washes, beer and burger nights, and golf tournaments, he was able to raise $146,000, a record individual total. Hudson believes in giving his time to causes where and when he can. "I simply believe each of us has a responsibility to help, whether we are in the public eye or not."
Hudson bristles at the label of retired and would rather believe he was given the opportunity to retool. "I'm not finished yet," he avows. It began with having the time to do what you want after a steady diet of 10-hour days for decades. Writing and teaching have been wonderful re-directions. He warns though, "what we do is not who we are. And how we do what we do can have an impact beyond our knowing."
Snapshot with Hudson Mack
If you were to meet yourself at age 20, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t procrastinate. Mastering the art of time management will serve you well in every aspect of your life. Do the thing you don’t want to do most, first.
Who or what has influenced you the most? And why?
My family. My parents and brother and sister, growing up. And Patty and our three children. There is no greater joy than watching your kids grow, helping them find their way in life, and no greater pride.
What does courage mean to you?
Grace, in the face of adversity.
What does success mean to you?
Putting others first, and doing the best you can. Strive for imperfection. Be happy. Have fun!
Unsinkable Anchor – $24.95 retail and can be found at independent bookstores, on BC Ferries, at Indigo, Chapters, and Coles stores, and everywhere online, including Amazon.ca and harbourpublishing.com
JUNE 2016 INSPIRED SENIOR LIVING
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