Timmins bids farewell to J. Conrad Lavigne
Timmins, Ont., - More than 200 people gathered on Saturday to say goodbye to the man who brought broadcast news to Northern Ontario. J. Conrad Lavigne, 86, who built a broadcasting empire in Northern Ontario and northwestern Quebec passed away last Tuesday.
While he lived most of his life in Timmins, his influence through radio and television broadcasting, hotel ownership, health care and higher education was widespread.
When Conrad Lavigne first arrived in Timmins from Cochrane, as an apprentice butcher, he had no idea that one day he would become one of the most powerful and respected figures in Canadian broadcasting.
Returning to Timmins in 1950, following service overseas with the Canadian Army and four years as a hotelier in Kirkland Lake, Conrad opened the first French language radio station in Ontario - CFCL. After seeing his first TV show during a visit to Rochester, NY in 1954, Conrad applied for a licence for an English station in Timmins, which he put on the air in 1955. Rebroadcasters quickly followed in Kapuskasing, Chapleau, Hearst, Kearns and in Malartic, Quebec.
In 1970, with the advent of the CTV Network in Timmins, he expanded his coverage to Sudbury, North Bay and Eillot Lake, In 1974, Conrad bought the bankrupt CHOV-TV in Pembroke, and extended it to cover Ottawa with a rebroadcaster, with the call sign CHRO-TV. Conrad built his own network to connect his unique stations - over a thousand miles of microwave systems. In the end, his private network stretched from Moosonee to Ottawa, and from Hearst and Chapleau to Mattagami, Quebec. He was serving a population of 1.5 million.
In 1980, Conrad Lavigne divested himself of his broadcast holdings, primarily because he was refused permission to operate a cable service in the north, as authorities feared a monopoly.
Conrad was active in industry affairs - a director of the Radio Sales Bureau, BBM, the CAB (Vice-President) and as President of the ACRTF. In 1971 and again in 1979, he received the Colonel Rogers Memorial Award "for outstanding developments in broadcast technology". In 1982, he was named to the Order of Canada. and in 1994, to the Order of Ontario. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University.
In 1989, Conrad Lavigne was inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.
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