Entertainment

CBC radio personality Rick Cluff dead at 74

Rick Cluff, one of British Columbia’s most loved radio personalities, has died.

Cluff passed away following a short battle with cancer days after marking his 74th birthday. 

A consummate broadcaster, Cluff brought his friendly voice and big personality to CBC Vancouver in 1997 and helped turn The Early Edition into the No. 1-rated morning show in the competitive Metro Vancouver radio market.

Cluff admitted he was scared on his first day on the job in Vancouver, after making the move from Toronto where he had spent two decades with CBC radio sports.

But his ability to connect with people, genuine curiosity and sharp journalistic instincts helped endear him to a growing legion of listeners, which peaked at over a quarter million per day in his 20-year run as host.

In a 2007 profile marking his first decade at CBC Vancouver, Cluff confessed he never spent much time contemplating the size of his audience or place at the top of the radio rankings.

“If I thought about that it would drive me crazy,” he said. “So it’s just the one person [I imagine] I’m speaking to, whether it’s a he or she in their car or their kitchen. That’s the relationship I develop with them.”

The Early Edition regulars during the Cluff years, from left to right: Fred Lee, Amy Bell, Rick Cluff and Cecilia Walters. (Fred Lee)

Shiral Tobin, a former producer of The Early Edition, remembers Cluff as a good person and gentleman to the core.

“He truly got joy from elevating and coaching others to find their path to success as journalists,” said Tobin, now CBC Vancouver’s journalism and programming director.

“He mentored many people who came through the program, often quietly and privately, yet always in a meaningful and genuine way.”

LISTEN: Rick Cluff interviews Terry Fox on Day 9 of the Marathon of Hope in 1980 

Cluff counted covering the announcement of the International Olympic Committee awarding Vancouver and Whistler the 2010 Winter Games and broadcasting as the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks unfolded as two unforgettable moments in his radio career.

“[9/11] happened at about 10 to six our time. We were just about to go on the air,” said Cluff in 2007.

“I remember telling people that if you’re listening, get up and turn on your television because what’s going on in New York now is certainly going to affect the way we live and life as we know it.”

Cluff and The Early Edition team earned a number of awards, including for their coverage of the Robert Dziekanski tasering at Vancouver International Airport, B.C. education strife, and protests over gentrification.

submitted by Cluff family
Rick Cluff leaves behind wife Cecilia, daughter Mallory, son James and five grandchildren. (submitted by Cluff family)

His sports broadcasting career also drew honours. In 1999, Cluff was inducted into the Football Reporters of Canada section of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. As a former player, football — and especially the CFL — held a special place in his heart. 

Besides broadcasting from Grey Cups, Super Bowls and Stanley Cups, “Cluffer,” as his sports family called him, also travelled the world to cover Canadian teams and athletes at eight Olympic Games, five Commonwealth Games and too-many-to-mention world cups and world championships.

Following a 41-year career at CBC, Cluff retired in 2017 after undergoing quadruple heart bypass surgery. 

In a story marking the occasion, Vancouver Magazine writer Matt O’Grady asked Cluff about joining the public broadcaster in 1976, against the advice of his father.

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The Early Edition crew, circa 2017. Back row from left: Lee Rosevere, Bridgette Watson, Jodie Martinson, Liam Britten, Drew Kerekes, Farrah Merali, Catherine Rolfsen, Theresa Duvall, Shiral Tobin, Margaret Gallagher and Steve Lus. Front row from left: Ross Bragg, Caroline Ewald, Amy Bell, Jeremy Allingham and Rick Cluff. (The Early Edition/CBC)

“I talked to Peter Mansbridge about this recently,” Cluff told O’Grady. “The opportunities we’ve had — we really did work during the golden age of broadcasting. I walked across Checkpoint Charlie, I stood in the DMZ in Korea, I was behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s. It really has been a remarkable career.”

Rick Cluff leaves behind his wife Cecilia, daughter Mallory, son James and five grandchildren.

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