Neil Thomas

Neil Thomas passed away on Sunday, February 23, 1997. The following messages were received on that day and over the next few days:

On Sunday, February 23, 1997, Warren Cosford ([email protected]) wrote:

As you may know, Neil Thomas was one of the original Big 8 Newsmen. From what I understand, he continued on with the station after the demise of the format. He was there when CHUM took the 'LWs over in 1993. When I came in early '94, he was doing the odd news shift and a garden show on the weekends. This expanded to cooking and health shows as well....and even a garage sale show.

Most recently, his proudest achievement was a promotion called Plant A Row For The Hungry.

A few months ago, he left to begin a battle with cancer of the esophagus. We lost him at noon today.

Last year, Neil was a pallbearer at Byron McGregor's funeral.

It was only after Byron died that it occured to me that, perhaps, today's CKLW should have done a tribute show on Byron. Perhaps inviting people who attended the funeral, and others via the telephone, to share their memories.

Do you think it would be an idea to put something together saluting Neil?


That tribute was produced and aired, as this subsequent letter from Warren (dated Friday, February 28, 1997) indicates:

Hi Jack:

A bunch of us put together a Neil Thomas Tribute Wednesday night. It was hosted by Wayne Stevens and Lynn Martin. Big 8 fans will be interested to know that among those participating in person and by phone were Tom Shannon, Jo Jo McGregor (Byron's widow), Grant Hudson and Joe Donovan. Neither Grant nor Jo Jo had been in the building for many years and were clearly overwhelmed.

The show was about 55 minutes. If your readers would like a cassette copy of it, we are making them available at $10 per with proceeds to the Plant A Row For The Hungry people. Simply mail your request with cash to:

Warren Cosford
Radio 4
1640 Ouellette Avenue
Windsor, Ontario
N8X 1L1

Charlie O'Brien also wrote on Sunday, February 23, 1997 with the news:

Jack, I'm sad to report a former CKLW newsman, Neil Thomas, has passed away. He died this morning in Windsor after battling cancer for several months. Neil was at CK in the late 60's and early 70's during the heyday of the Big 8. He moved across town to CKWW where he worked until CHUM Ltd. folded all the stations together after their purchase of CKLW and so I worked with him a second time.

He was a professional journalist, a lover of nature and the outdoors. Neil had completed a Botany and Agriculture degree and was going to pursure that after radio. He was also a regular Garden/Landscape columnist in The Windsor Star up until his death.

Services Thursday in Tecumseh,Ontario.

Charlie O'Brien

Doug Fernlock also wrote in that same day:

Jack....I just received sad news from Kathy Sobocan of CKLW:

Neil Thomas has died of pancreatic cancer at age 59. Neil was still reporting news at CKLW up until his recent hospitalization...albeit not the 20/20 style when I knew him 20+ years ago. I saw him at Byron's funeral two years ago and he was the same class act as always. "Gentleman and Scholar" fits him perfectly.

Visitation at Marcotte Funeral Home, 12105 Tecumseh Road East, Tecumseh Ontario N8N 1M2.
Visitation hours: Tuesday, 2/25/97, 7pm to 9pm; Wednesday 2/26/97, 2pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9pm
Funeral: Thursday 2/27/97 at 10:30am

Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Windsor, 6038 Empress, Windsor Ontario N8T 1B5 or to Ontario Horticultural Association (do not have their address).

All info per Kathy Sobocan at CKLW, (519) 944-5585 [voicemail] or (519) 253-9494 [newsroom].

If you would post this on the CK page I suspect many colleagues will be greatful.

Doug Fernlock

Announcement from Warren Cosford, received Monday, February 24, 1997:


AM 800 CKLW Newsman Neil Thomas died Saturday. He had been fighting cancer of the esophagus for a number of months.

Neil was a 43 year veteran of broadcasting. His timeline is as follows:

1954 - CFRB Toronto. One hour show Sunday mornings. No pay. He did a "teen" show. He was 16.

? - Galt, Ontario. First paying radio job.

? - CHUK, Cobourg, Ontario

1959? - CHUM, Toronto

1961? - CFGM, Richmond Hill, Ontario

1962 - ZBM Bermuda

1965 - KELP, El Paso, Texas

1968 - KTSM-TV, El Paso, Texas

1969 - KNUZ-TV, Houston, Texas

1971 - CKLW, Windsor

? - CKWW, Windsor

? - CKLW, Windsor

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

Marcotte's Funeral Home & Chapel
12105 Tecumseh Road, Tecumseh Ontario

Visitation Tuesday evening 7-9pm and Wednesday 7p-9p.
Funeral at 10:30am Thursday.

Donations to: Ontario Horticultural Association

Neil is probably best known outside this area as one of the Big 8 CKLW Newsmen. His nickname was "Shotgun". Most recently, he is revered as a mentor to many young people both in and out of radio in the Windsor area. On the air at CKLW and in a regular column in the Windsor Star, he made a name for himself as a "Master Gardner". His most recent accomplishment was a promotion he called "Plant a Row for The Hungry" which he had been spearheading for the past two years. It was his final wish that we should carrying on with this promotion.

A fine gentleman and a true professional.

Wednesday evening at 7:05pm eastern time, AM 800 CKLW will be broadcasting "A Tribute To Neil Thomas" a celebration of his life. If you would like to contribute with a Neil Thomas Story, please e-mail me at [email protected] with your phone number.
[Note that this is the program referenced above -Jack]

Warren Cosford
Operations Manager, CKLW

This was received from Michael James Kakuk ([email protected]) on Tuesday, February 25, 1997.

Hi Jack,

My name is Mike Kakuk. I currently work at CKLW as a producer, reporter, and talk show host. The show I produced was the "Windsor Weekend" with Neil Thomas.

As the tributes pour in for Neil, I hear and read a lot about how he was a mentor for so many young broadcasters. Unfortunatly I was the last that he took under his wing.

Neil did not teach me about the technical aspect of radio such as how to read scripts. He taught me how to deal with people and how to handle myself.

Neil and I had a relationship which far exceeded work. During the past 2 summers I worked out at his house and worked side by side with Neil doing what he loved best, gardening. It truly was a great experience and I learned a lot from building raised beds in the garden to building a green house. What I will miss most about those hot summer afternoons is the conversations we had.

Radio is a buisness with a lot of ego's, Neil was the exception to this. He made me feel a part of the show, he made me feel like it was our show. And he always showed an appreciation for the work it did on our show.

I spent a lot of time with Neil and his wife Ginny, he was also a great husband and from what I hear a great father.

The weekends won't be the same without Neil

On Wednesday night between 7pm and 8pm CKLW will be airing a tribute to Neil Thomas. I will be producing that show. If anybody would like a copy of it email me at [email protected] or call me at 519-972-1026. Also if anybody has a good Neil story call the show at 792-2559 in Windsor, 1-800-263-2559 outside the local calling area or in metro Detroit call 313-961-6397.
[Again, please that this is the program referenced above -Jack]

Neil was a great broadcaster, co-worker, friend and father figure to me. I along with many others will miss him dearly.

Mike Kakuk

This message was received from Matt Weingarden ([email protected]) on Thursday, February 27, 1997:

Hi Jack,

My name is Matt Weingarden. I am currently a producer at cklw/radio 4. I was lucky enough to have worked with Neil Thomas for 10 years. Growing up in windsor during the 70's and 80's I was lucky enough to experience the big 8. Neil was one of the true legends, and helped me get started in the business. He was truly a fine gentleman and an absolute professional. I could hand Neil a piece of copy...he would take a quick glance at it and say this is exactly 27 seconds...then read it in one take and hit that time mark every single read. He will be truly missed.

Matt Weingarden
Commercial Production Dept. CKLW

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