Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tom Cameron-Fawkes tragically passes away suddenly - Rest In Peace, Brother

Tom Cameron-Fawkes
I was deeply saddened to learn that Tom Cameron-Fawkes suddenly passed away on April 5 at the age of just 63 years.

Tom was a dedicated unionist who in his long career worked for the IWA, the BC Federation of Labour and the United Food and Commercial Workers union local 1518.

But Tommy was much more than a veteran communication director for unions - he was a former disc jockey at several radio stations in the US and Canada, an outspoken advocate for social justice - especially for children who were exploited for their labour in horrible conditions in countries that fail to respect basic human rights.

Tom was a powerful speaker with a great voice - and a hilarious raconteur of stories both profound and occasionally, well, ribald, in nature!

Tom was reknowned by thousands of labour activists over many years as the "Choir Judge" at the Canadian Labour Congress' Winter School in Harrison Hot Springs each winter - where each class would put together a song to impress their fellow students - and Tom would take it apart with arch humour to much hilarity.

My sympathies go out to his wife Deb and all his family and many, many friends.

Tom has left the building far too soon - rest in peace, brother, rest in peace.

A private family service will be followed by a public celebration of Tom's life, to be announced later.

The family is requesting donations to Vancouver's Covenant House - an organization that supports street youth be made in Tom's name.

Here is the full obituary - published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper today.

* * * * *


With profound sorrow, we announce the sudden passing of Tom Cameron-Fawkes on April 5, 2011, at the age of 63.

He is survived by his loving wife and best friend, Deb; his father, Norman Fawkes; brother Wally; and children Michael, David and his wife Sara, and Vanessa Guild.

Trade unionist, communicator, activist, advocate, powerful orator, adoring husband, devoted father, passionately loyal friend, generous mentor, with a sense of humour large enough to match his prodigious presence: the imprint he leaves on the world can hardly be measured.

As strategist and ringmaster for 35 years of campaigns to secure rights and dignity for every member of society, Tom made lasting impressions on people from all walks of life. He began his professional career working as a CFUN DJ at the ridiculous age of 16. Ten years in broadcasting took him to Seattle (KJR) and Los Angeles (KROQ-FM, at the dawn of the FM era), Whitehorse, Yukon, and Trail, BC, where he would meet the future president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

His nearly-successful effort to unionize his workplace ended his career in radio, and began a stellar career as a labour communicator.

Counting Ginger Goodwin among his grandparents' friends, he came by his passion for social justice naturally. He worked with the estimable Jack Munro as director of communications for the IWA, and later took the same title for the BC Federation of Labour.

Tom's political instincts were legendary, and his advice was sought on and off the record. His abiding respect for frontline workers in every industry was warm and unpretentious, from his favourite Szechwan diner to cruise ships traversing the Panama Canal.

Tom made friends wherever he went. In the early nineties, Tom took on the Communications Department for the 26,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518, representing supermarket, retail, industrial and community healthcare workers province-wide.

In both professional and personal life he advocated for the empowerment of women and spoke out at every opportunity against the exploitation of children.

Tom was a generous and gifted mentor to many within and outside the labour movement - and equally, an outrageous comic and raconteur, much of which is not fit to print. He showed no mercy to pretense or self-importance.

At the same time, his loyalty to friends and colleagues was unshakeable, and his honesty blunt and refreshing. With a heart as big as all outdoors, compassion was his greatest quality, informing all his life and work.

His creativity stretched from communications to photography to his renowned gourmet cooking. Upon his retirement in 2007, Tom and Deb took to exploring the world via cruise ship, a new shared passion, from Alaska to the Amazon.

Tom's was a life of imagination and accomplishment, friendship and really, really great laughs.

Our time with him was too short, and he will be deeply missed by too many admirers to count.

"I am just an ordinary guy...and that is all I ever want to be". Sorry, Tom - you were anything but.

The family will hold a private service of remembrance, and a public celebration of his life will take place at a later date, to be announced.

Donations may be made in Tom's name to Covenant House in Vancouver, a support facility for downtown street youth.



Michael said...

After the strike at CKLG and the eventual dissolution of Local 686 Tom was a dominant figure in helping me find a new life outside broadcasting. He was a good man and understood the word loyalty when it mattered most.

Michael Morgan

Anonymous said...

I went through the CLC Winter School about 10 years ago and was on the receiving end of Tom's scything wit. A year or so later I heard him speak on the plight of child prostitutes around the world, and specifically in Vancouver; very disconcerting for this sheltered one.

A powerful, persuasive man - he'll be missed.

Anonymous said...

He was a very nice, kind person. Feel so bad for his family...

Mike Huish said...

Tom was my Brother in Law and he sure will be missed. Tom was quite the guy and I will miss listening to Tom talk about his trips , food , and life with Deb.Loved his travel blogs ! His sense of humor and wit will be missed . We always had a fun time when Tom was around. He sure loved people. We all appreciated how Tom looked after Deb and made her so happy ! We all share a lot of good memories of Tom. After the service at Mountain View it was comforting to know that Tom's caring and love for Deb will be passed on to his family and friends and Deb will never be alone. My condolences to Tom's family and good friends.