The first time you meet Bob Grainger it can be intimidating. The retired Black Press newspaper executive is an imposing presence.
But ask anyone who has worked with Grainger and they’ll say you couldn’t meet a nicer guy.
“He definitely has a game face that is rough and tough, but he cares more about people and newspapers than anyone,” says longtime friend and co-worker Mark Warner, who has known Grainger for 22 years.
To Grainger, it’s always been about the people and “doing a good job.”
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that Grainger will be honoured with the prestigious Eric Dunning Award for Dedication and Service to the Community Newspaper Industry, when the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Association meets for its annual convention at the end of April.
“I’m very surprised about the award,” says Grainger, 71, a Saanich resident.
From hardware salesman to being the right-hand man of Black Press founder David Black – Grainger’s 33 years in the newspaper business has been colourful.
It began in 1976 when Black was the owner and publisher of the Williams Lake Tribune and was in need of a sales manager for his growing newspaper.
Black wanted someone who was aggressive and well-respected in the business community. It took a little convincing, but before long Grainger joined up with Black and a unique partnership was formed that would last more than 30 years.
In 1978, Grainger became the publisher of the Williams Lake Tribune and by 1980 he was the president of Cariboo Press, making Grainger responsible for the chain of newspapers Black had put together throughout the Interior of B.C.
In 2000, Black Press had expanded greatly taking in most of B.C. and Washington State, not to mention Hawaii, and Grainger took on more responsibilities by becoming president of the Prairie Group as well as Cariboo Press.
He was named chief operating officer in 2002 and moved to Victoria from Williams Lake to work alongside Black.
“David trusted me explicitly,” Grainger said. “We were very good friends. We did all the good things together and all the bad things together. I loved his family and they loved me.”
Black said Grainger was a quick study and an asset to the company.
“I’m not surprised he stayed around for so long. I was always able to give him new challenges, and he got the job done,” Black said.
“He was a lot of fun to be around, too.”
Grainger always remained committed to his community, and expected the same from his newspaper staff.
For him it started with the minor sports his kids were involved with – hockey and football – and soon morphed into other areas such as service clubs, community boards and organizations like the Williams Lake Stampede and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
When he came to Greater Victoria, Grainger became the honourary chairman of JDRF and raised thousands of dollars for the charity.
“I want to leave this world with some confidence that I helped change some people lives and I think I did that,” Grainger says.
Warner, who nominated Grainger for the award, says his former boss was a mentor to many people and organizations.
“Bob is wonderful. Staff and community residents know him as a forthright leader and an honest man with an engaging personality,” Warner says.
For Grainger, it was all in a day’s work.
Since his retirement, he’s played it low-key. He does a little fishing, hunting, golfing and has had more time to devote to his woodworking hobby.
One thing he does miss about working, though, is the people.
“I miss people amazingly. It was the best ride. It was the best thing in my life,” he says.