Graham Takoff, former owner and publisher of the Capital News, had a knack for gold panning, an eye for talent and a good-natured approach to business that won him many fans among his employees.
When he passed away last Sunday, at the age of 80, the loss was felt throughout the valley and beyond by many newspaper people who got their starts during Takoff’s 23-year tenure at the helm of this publication and appreciated the family-like atmosphere he developed in the business.
“He was the best husband, father, grandfather and boss that anybody could ever hope for and he left us with a lot of fond memories,” said Brian Takoff, his son, who worked in the newspaper’s press plateroom.
Under Takoff’s watchful eye, the newspaper grew from a dozen employees, publishing once a week, to the thrice weekly publication it is today, moving first to its home at the base of Bernard Avenue and finally to new Enterprise Way offices where it is presently located.
“I remember him walking down the hallway…and saying to me ‘with my money and your good looks, we’ll make a great team,’” said Stuart Cook, who would become national advertising sales manager.
Takoff always said the backbone of the newspaper was the small ads, telling his sales staff the big ads would come and go but the small ones, and the classifieds were with the newspaper to stay, said Cook.
And, true to his word, the small ads stayed, becoming so popular the Capital News had trouble with readers stealing copies that overflowed out into the back alley of its office—deal-seekers trying to get a jump on the classified advertisements—as the newspaper began to outgrow its Bernard Avenue home.
He was never afraid to take a risk on a new person, whether that meant hiring someone who couldn’t really type, as now retired production staffer Sandy Lewis learned, or taking our current columnist Charlie Hodge, then a reporter and sports editor, back after he threw a tantrum.
“Graham understood the business,” said Hodge. “When he married, he literally married the business. He lived and breathed it.”
Takoff met his wife, Jane Kerry, in Moncton, New Brunswick, while still in the Navy. He did a brief stint in the Arctic, working on the Distant Early Warning Line, a naval radar line set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers, before moving to the Okanagan to settle in her hometown.
Jane’s father, Les Kerry, had started the Capital News and hired his son-in-law with a succession plan.
Takoff worked as a reporter, advertising salesman and office manager for 10 years before assuming the reins as publisher, and took to the business admirably.
The newspaper was a community hub and the door was always open; although there were difficult times as well.
Takoff’s son, Michael, served as office manager up to the day in 1989 when he was killed in a car accident, a tragic event his newspaper had to cover.
The newspaper was sued during Takoff’s reign and he endured ebbs and flows in the economy.
“I never saw him lose his temper and good Lord he had reason to,” said Hodge.
Hodge said Takoff had a knack for hiring the characters that made the paper interesting and the humour to ride the wave when their foibles brought him difficulties.
Former editor Bryden Winsby, now a West Kelowna councillor, remembered him as a man who could let the stories stand on their own, always knowing to keep his hands away from the content.
“Graham’s approach to the business was very, very good. He was probably one of the best publishers I’ve worked for and I’ve worked for quite a few,” said Winsby.
Environment reporter and outdoors columnist Judie Steeves said he was the type of man who knew how to fix a problem and was generous enough to do so, even at his own personal cost.
On her way to a meeting in Peachland, she remembers getting a speeding ticket. Complaining about it after she got back to the office, to her surprise Takoff paid the ticket. She hadn’t even asked.
“That’s just the type of man he was,” she said.
Many past and present Capital News staff members shared their thoughts about Takoff and the impact he had on their lives and their newspaper careers.
Garth Allmand, former Capital News advertising sales representative:
“A passing of a good man, and a very patient one. Those early days, when I started at least, were challenging for the Capital News and Graham did his very best to keep us alive against all competition. And we won, against all those odds—the Daily Courier, Kelowna Today and many others. We did it under Graham’s patient guidance, who had to deal with the frustrations of staff and, of course, the huge personal loss of his son Mike.”
Karen Hill, current Capital News publisher:
“Graham gave me my start in this business when he hired me in the classified department. He was a kind, compassionate man who made you feel like you were part of a second family when you came to work each day. The Capital News became the community newspaper of record through his keen sense of responsibility to the community that we serve. He was a gracious, humble man who will be missed by everyone that was fortunate to have had their life touched by him.”
Tessa Ringness, Capital News production manager:
“Graham’s smiling eyes is what I will always remember about him. His love for the paper and his staff was surely felt by us. To this day, I still say he was one of my favourite bosses. I thank him for trusting in what he saw in me and, 23 years later, I am still here. Thank you Graham for the man and boss you were, and the example that you set for me on ‘perseverance.’ Our loss is heaven’s gain.”
Nancy Blow, current Capital News production staffer:
“I was hired by Graham Takoff in January 1983 and it didn’t take long before I was entrenched in the Capital News spirit of getting the work done but having a lot of fun along the way. His wonderful humour, sharp wit, generosity and seemingly easy management style was endearing; but there was never any mistaking who was boss. I believe whatever spirit of fellowship that remains within the walls of the Capital News to this day, is because Graham Takoff was once the man in charge.”
Kiana Haner-Wilk, current Capital News production staffer:
“Graham hired me to work in the production department 23 years ago. Right from the start, I admired and respected him. When you had a question, you could expect an intelligent and well thought-out reply. He knew so much about the newspaper industry and was involved in all facets. On top of that he was a kind and patient man who had a positive impact on many people’s lives.”
Sandy Lewis, retired Capital News production staffer:
“Graham hired me in December, 1970. I was kind of a mess when it came to being qualified for the job. I had been out of high school a few years and my typing skills were all but gone. For some reason, he decided to give me a typing test. I was a dismal failure. I think I zinged off about 30 words a minute with about the same amount of mistakes. Anyway, he hired me and years later when I asked him why he’d hired me when I had obviously failed the test, he told me that he just had a feeling that I’d catch on and that I’d be a lot of fun to boot. Well, I had a lot of fun at the Capital News over the years. Graham was an awesome boss and lots of fun himself. He was also a friend and I could comfortably go to him for advice from time to time. I will never forget him and he will be missed.”