Radio

CBC Radio host Don Connolly retiring after nearly 42 years

Connolly has co-hosted Information Morning in Halifax since April 1976

Don Connolly says Halifax is a ‘more attractive place to live’ than when he first moved here in the mid-’70s.   Colin Slark

Information Morning host Don Connolly is saying goodbye on his own terms. This week he announced that Jan. 26 will be his last broadcast of the show he’s co-hosted for decades.

He wanted to wait a little while to make the announcement, but the network wanted to advertise the position internally and he decided to be transparent.

“I had wanted to be the anti-Peter Mansbridge,” he says. “I wanted to wait until January to announce this, come back after Christmas and say ‘by the way, I’m outta here in four weeks.'”

Connolly, 70, once thought about setting his retirement for June 2016 after 40 years on the job. A bad fall in January 2015 and two bouts of cancer delayed that. Now he’s making the willing decision to sign off.

“I’m fully recovered from two out of three,” he says about his health. He’s recovered from his fall and  thyroid cancer, but still has two months left on a treatment for bladder cancer.

Having started in April 1976, he’s been the morning show’s co-host for nearly 42 years. Connolly says colleague Nina Corfu did the math and estimated that’s about 70,000 interviews.

Information Morning has been a radio staple in Halifax since its inception in 1970. Recently, the show was named Best Radio Show for 2017 as part of The Coast‘s Best of Halifax awards. The awards, which are voted on by readers, have given Information Morning the gold or silver designation every year since 2009.

When Connolly joined CBC in Halifax, it was an AM radio station servicing Halifax and Dartmouth. That reach eventually broadened with the introduction of low-power repeaters across the province.

“Suddenly we were a program which was trying to reflect what was going on in the entire province,” Connolly says.

That means Connolly has been on the frontlines for major stories. He covered the Westray mine disaster in 1992, the crash of Swissair Flight 111 in 1998 and Hurricane Juan in 2003.

“You had a sense … that you were doing a genuine service to the community in a way that a daily program isn’t ordinarily,” he says.

Connolly enjoys the smaller moments too.

“I’ve always been a reader, so … I remember the half a dozen times I talked to (Margaret) Atwood or a couple of years ago Colm Tóibín, the Irish novelist,” he says.

Another highlight for Connolly is Information Morning’s occasional broadcasts from remote locations across Nova Scotia. He likes interacting with people he doesn’t know personally, but who know him and facts about his life because they listen to the show.

He says there’s a “level of intimacy” with this type of relationship.

“It’s wonderful,” he says. “It’s a real blessing to me, but it’s a little weird in the best possible way.”

That intimacy is reflected in the reaction on social media to the news of his departure. Nova Scotians value the time they’ve spent with Connolly over the years.

Many Nova Scotians have never known what it is like to not have Connolly keeping them company in the morning.

Nova Scotians took to social media to wish Connolly well on his retirement.   Colin Slark

Others feel that Connolly’s retirement is well-deserved.

Connolly’s retirement announcement sparked a mixture of sadness and joy.   Colin Slark

 

‘Big party’

Information Morning producer Christina Harnett says that Connolly’s departure will be “big change.”

“I don’t know if anybody can replace Don,” she says.

Connolly feels like he’s had to constantly improve his craft over the last four decades. What he wants to do for the remainder of his tenure is to keep improving and go out on a high note.

“If I have an aim it is to basically do the show the best way I can, the way I ordinarily do it rather than spending the next 10 weeks talking about my fucking self,” Connolly says.

“I’m here; I’m gonna do my job the best way I can. I’m going when I want to, on my terms. I want to be on my game as much as I can be.”

Costas Halavrezos, who retired in 2010 after over two decades as host of CBC’s Maritime Noon, has been a friend of Connolly’s since they went to St. Francis Xavier University together in 1965.

“As an old friend of mine, I’m hoping he’ll have a good, long and happy retirement,” says Halavrezos. “He’s worked a long time in the industry and doesn’t have anything left to prove.”

Halavrezos has been busy since he retired, spending time as a spice merchant until last year, writing a book, doing voiceover work for different projects and being a grandfather. Recently he ran into Connolly at a funeral for a former colleague.

“We actually did talk about now that we’re retiring we’re lucky enough to still be alive. We’re looking forward to getting together,” says Halavrezos.

Connolly’s last broadcast on Jan. 26 will be a “big party,” says Harnett.

“We don’t have the location nailed down yet, but hopefully everybody will come and hopefully there won’t be a snowstorm,” she says.

Connolly, who has gotten up at 4:45 a.m. almost every weekday morning for over 40 years, says he’s not a morning person. Soon, he’ll be able to sleep in.