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Cochrane bids farewell to community champion

On the quiet of a Sunday morning, John ‘Jack’ Tennant spent his final moments basking in the sun, surrounded by friends and family, as his giant heart took its final beats.
Remembering Jack
Former publisher of the Rocky View Weekly and Cochrane Eagle founder Jack Tennant died May 20. He was 82.

On the quiet of a Sunday morning, John ‘Jack’ Tennant spent his final moments basking in the sun, surrounded by friends and family, as his giant heart took its final beats. The Cochrane Eagle founder and one of the most well-known pillars of the Cochrane community died May 20 at the age of 82 from heart failure propelled by a declining battle with kidney failure. Unless you’re dead or in Edmonton (to quote one of Jack’s most famous column ledes) and you have lived in Cochrane for longer than five minutes, you have at least heard of the retired photojournalist-turned-columnist, publisher and philanthropist. If it was during the month of December, you are correctly thinking of the man who wore a Santa hat in Cochrane for each of the 31 days, year after year. His Page 2 columns in the Cochrane Eagle remain among the most talked about and missed weekly accounts since hanging up his publisher’s hat in 2013. Talked about because they never stopped short of stirring the pot, or ruffling a political feather or two. Missed because they spoke to his expansive readership at the deepest human level – free of any pretentiousness. There are few political leaders, including prime ministers, First Nations chiefs and Western Canadian celebrities, who hadn’t met Jack throughout his years as a newspaper publisher in various southern Alberta towns and longtime columnist for the Calgary Sun. A proud father to sons Alan and Ian, Jack watched Alan raise a family and become a successful CEO of the Calgary Real Estate Board, while his youngest followed in Jack’s footsteps – now a professor of journalism at Mount Royal University. “His legacy is all the people who he helped over the years – and the Eagle. We launched that from nothing,” Ian said. With his twinkling, pale-blue eyes, Jack never ran short of stories to tell – his own or those of the world around him. Right up until his final weeks, he would make his way to the Eagle office with a tip or tidbit. “He’s one of the throwbacks to the journalists who learned by doing. Some of the things they had to go through to get the story…,” Ian said, recounting an early Manitoba tale where photographer Jack had to hold the flashlight for a doctor to perform a foot amputation at the scene of a collision Jack was assigned to cover. In life, the only thing it seemed Jack loved more than rousing those of societal or political importance, was to champion the underdog, to give a hand up to the fallen or forgotten – highlighted frequently through his unwavering support of veterans, children and animals. He also was a voice and support for those who suffered from addiction – celebrating 52 years of sobriety after a mid-1960s stint on the streets of Vancouver where his alcoholism reached rock bottom. In the decades since, he has given back through the Alcoholics Anonymous community as a sponsor and mentor. Through his work as a Sun columnist, he was the public face of the SUNshine Fund – which raised more than $1 million for the Salvation Army. Seniors for Kids, the Cochrane and Area District Foundation and the Cochrane and Area Humane Society were among the charities Jack advocated for, volunteered with and scrawled about. His compassion also extended to the nearby Stoney Nakoda First Nation in Morley. Ian said it was early on in the Cochrane newspaper tenure that his father made the conscious choice to extend courtesy and improve relationships between Cochrane and Morley. “We’re gonna miss Jack,” said Sykes Powderface, a respected Stoney Nakoda elder and longtime friend of Jack – who was named “Gentle Buffalo” by his Stoney friends. “He was always smiling, and he was always ready to listen if I had to get something off my chest.” Powderface commended his late friend for his unrelenting support of Morley – through promotion of the Nation businesses and initiatives, establishing long-term friendships and mentoring youth. Throughout the 1980s, Jack and Brenda – his partner in life and in newspapers for the last 38 years – saw their way through buying, building and selling southern Alberta weekly newspapers, beginning with the Airdrie Echo and Rocky View Times (now the Rocky View Weekly) in 1980, followed by the Crossfield Chronicle several years later. In 2001, the Cochrane Eagle was launched and Ian came on board as a part owner and editor, working alongside his dad and Brenda – the current publisher. Jack is survived by his wife, Brenda, his sons Alan (Rona) and Ian. His granddaughters Lisa (Laura), Michelle (Matt); grandchildren Lochlan, Smith and Mateo; his sister Ruth and brother Mark. He is predeceased by his sister Louiseas well as his parents. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to The Cochrane and Area Humane Society or The Kidney Foundation of Canada. A celebration of Jack’s life will take place at RockPointe Church in Bearspaw May 29 at 2 p.m.

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