Henry Frew, “Mentor with a Purpose”

By Ron Kerr

He was a husband, father, farmer, sailor, traveler, editor, writer and photographer. He was mentor, agitator, philosopher and friend. He appreciated the essence of fine, single-malt Scotch and was a lover of all that God and nature provided.

When Henry Lorimer Frew died, the natural resources of British Columbia lost a strong, long-time champion. “Managers of these resources and the outdoor writing community lost a valued friend,” said Bill Otway, a close friend who shared views with Henry regarding management of British Columbia’s natural resources.

Henry had a long and distinguished career as a writer/editor for key resource periodicals in Scotland, Canada and the United States. He started his writing career in Glasgow, Scotland, as a reporter and photographer for several papers including the Farming News. His Scottish wit, brogue and tenacious desire to not only get the story first, but also to get it right were his trademarks throughout his writing life.

After moving to Canada in 1966, he was the managing editor of Western Fisheries magazine and Vancouver Island editor of Pacific Yachting. Henry became editor of BC Outdoors magazine in the early 1980s. He brought his integrity and commitment with him. Informative, entertaining and accurate writing on the beauty, benefits and needs of the fish and wildlife resources of British Columbia was his standard. Those of us who had the privilege to work with him as writers and photographers learned those lessons well.

Henry was a mentor with a purpose. I remember the day when several writers and photographers sat around the editorial boardroom to pontificate about what great story ideas we had for the magazine. Henry sat back in his chair, drew his hand across his beard as though to hide a smirk and announced: “Anyone in this room who thinks they are going to make a living writing for this magazine is sadly mistaken. If you want to make a living as a freelance outdoor writer you had better have some book ideas in the back of your mind, be prepared to write for lots of other publications and get a part-time job to supplement your income.” Harsh, but true.

Henry had a knack for deliberately saying things to spark a reaction. When you bit the hook, he would smile as if to say “gotcha.”

He loved discussions on politics, particularly when they involved environmental issues about fish, wildlife and mother earth. He was opinionated, but he had facts to back up his viewpoints. Henry had little time for those who could not see down the path they were walking.

In committees, he was articulate, slow speaking, confident and accurate. The bureaucracy of any “organization” was as distasteful as the bureaucracy of government. But he wasn’t a quitter. Once he made a commitment to do something, he would get the job done — despite the hurdles. Those standards were evident in the years that he served as a volunteer and director for the BC Wildlife Federation. When he joined Victoria Power Squadron, he became the editor of The Binnacle, which won a CPS National award. He retired as the Victoria Power Squadron Commander. As a member of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association (NOWA), Henry was a constant advocator to see the organization do better for itself. He served on committees, was a director, vice president and president. In 2000, he was awarded NOWA’s first Outstanding Member of the Board award, and he was a consistent winner of craft improvement awards. During his 20-year tenure with the OWAA, he was always willing to put his name forward for committee work. Mostly recently, Henry was busy helping revise OWAA’s Outdoor Style Manual as chair of the Reference Manual Committee.

Bill Otway said, “Throughout his life and career, Henry was always there to lend a helping hand and a bit of advice to new and up-and-coming writers. There are many in the field today who have seen success to one degree or another, thanks to their association, be it short or long, with Henry Frew. He was a tough taskmaster but a kind and helpful mentor.”

“There is a poem,” Otway said, “regarding the ‘dash between the dates’ i.e. Henry Frew 1933 — 2003 and how your life and accomplishments are in fact signified by that dash. For those of us who had the honor to know or work with Henry, we know his dash was well used and represents a meaningful contribution to all who follow.”

One of Henry’s favorite sayings was “good stuff.” In recognition of the completion of a life well lived and accomplishments well delivered by Henry Frew — good stuff!

He will be missed.

Thirty-three year OWAA member Ron Kerr of Kimberley, British Columbia, is executive director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.

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