Ralph Hancox, 23 August 1929 – 22 March 2017
We are mourning the loss of Ralph Hancox, noted Canadian editor, publishing icon and former Chairman of Reader’s Digest Canada, and one of the founders of the Master of Publishing Program at SFU.
Victoria, British Columbia – 26 March 2017 – The family announces the recent death of Ralph Hancox, latterly from Victoria, British Columbia, on 22 March 2017 at the fine age of 87.
Colleagues and friends refer to Ralph as a remarkable man of letters, of sharp wit and humour, a classic gentleman. He was one who willingly pushed a car out of a snow bank, helped others in formative stages to launch executive careers, held court with an audience and shared sage advice and counsel. The legacy he leaves behind with colleagues, students and family is the gift of using the written word to entertain and improve the lives of those who remain.
Ralph was born in West Hamstead, England on 23 August 1929. Ralph attended the School of Modern Languages, Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where he mastered Pitman shorthand, a prerequisite skill for his early career in journalism. He arrived in Canada in 1955 with his new bride, Margaret (Peg) Frier, newborn daughter Linda and a vintage German Olympia typewriter in hand. His exceptional typing skills of 125 wpm, his sharp and inquisitive mind were tools that launched an iconic career in journalism that spanned 54 years on the Canadian publishing landscape.
Ralph started his career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, training in Rhodesia, at the tender age of 17. He described the experience of flying the Tiger Moth, Harvard, and the first RAF jet, the Gloster Meteor as “hurtling through the air in a tin can with a ton of metal strapped to his backside.” He flew in the Berlin Airlift in 1948, and later as a journalist covered the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1961, he travelled via the underground from East to West Berlin through the Wall under the conditions that he would not report on his experience.
In 1965, Ralph won a Nieman Fellowship recognizing excellence in Canadian editorial writing at the Peterborough Examiner and attended Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Later he joined Harvard’s Program for Management Development as part of the PMD 26 cohort at the School of Business.
In Canada he started his career in journalism writing obituaries for the Kingston Whig Standard. After a career as Editor-in-Chief at the Peterborough Examiner as a colleague of Robertson Davies, he joined the Reader’s Digest where he worked for 32 years. Ralph ended his first career, serving the last 16 years as Chairman, President, and CEO of Reader’s’ Digest Canada and Consigliere delegato and chairman of Reader’s Digest Italy. Post retirement he served as Adjunct Professor and Professional Fellow Emeritus at Simon Fraser University where he published a textbook on Managing the Publishing Process for the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. There, he was honoured with the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service for 10 years of teaching before he retired again at the age of 80, in 2009.
Peg and Ralph (aka Hank) lived a life post-World War II in Canada pursuing family and career dreams in Kingston, Peterborough, Boston, New York, Montreal, Milan, Vancouver, and Victoria, with summers at Sandy Lake and weekends of leisure in Vermont. He was inquisitive and over the years Ralph pursued his passion in photography, choral music, madrigals, travelling the world, writing and publishing seven books exploring topics of social conscience, family history and publishing management. Simple pleasures included sautéing the perfect scallop, bird and wildlife watching. A storyteller at heart, he regaled generations of family and students with lessons he learned from his rich life experiences. “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement” he would say, quoting his mother.
He was a man of letters in the classic sense: fountain pen, elegant italic script to paper and daily journaling over the last 53 years. He engaged in written repartees, Olympian literary gymnastics with family and friends, including long time Peterborough friend and librarian, Bob Porter.
He was not an ordinary man. Robert Frost’s words “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” describes the restless soul, the intimate relationships, the daily inner tension, his ability to question and think deeply and at the same time embrace his life. His mind never rested as he explored life and the meaning of existence, to the day he died.
Ralph leaves behind 4 appreciative children, their spouses and families who live with gratitude across Canada.