Long-time broadcaster and multiculturalism promoter Johnny Lombardi has died.
The musician and entrepreneur passed away at a Toronto hospital following a brief illness.
He founded CHIN Radio, a multicultural station that grew to offer programs in over 30 languages. The Second World War veteran and son of Italian immigrants received many accolades in his life, including the Toronto Civic Award of Merit and the Order of Canada.
“He was the guy that introduced multiculturalism to Toronto,” Mayor Mel Lastman told radio station CFRB.
“He came up with a multicultural radio and promoted it and showed people they’ve got to be proud of what they are and who they are.”
Lastman also said Lombardi was a “great big part” of the city, helping to make it what it is.
After returning from war-torn Europe in 1946, Johnny gave up his music career to start a corner grocery store at Dundas and Manning Streets. His broadcasting career began by making a deal with CHUM radio (and later with CKFH) to produce his own hour show of Italian music — in exchange, he brought in his own advertisers. The concept worked, and his shows grew in popularity and the supermarket flourished. He branched out to show business, becoming an impresario and concert promoter, and eventually, in 1966, his dream to own a community ethnic radio station came true with CHIN Radio, now serving over 30 cultural communities.
Lombardi also gained fame as a comunity organizer. He was famous for his annual picnics, which attracted prominent politicians, as well as the sometimes controversial Miss CHIN bikini contests.
He is survived by his wife, Lena, and children Lenny, Theresa and Donina Lombardi-Hartig, and five grandchildren.
For those wishing to pay their respects, a donation to Johnny’s favourite charity The Hospital for Sick Children would be appreciated, or to St. Michael’s Hospital Cardiology.