Ron Pumphrey was many things; broadcaster, author and city councillor. In this special one-on-one, Marilyn Pumphrey reflects on the man, the legend – her husband
What a wonderful world Marilyn Pumphrey lived in for 40years. “Ron was a beautiful husband and I miss him everyday,” she begins. What does she miss most? “His sense of humour,” she says with a tear in her eye. But Ron was also a romantic at heart.
“We met for the first time at this apartment building at the top of Patrick Street, and every year on the anniversary of our meeting we’d go back to that apartment.”
To honour the occasion
They’d cut out a red heart and write; R&M met here June 27, 1974 and leave it somewhere in the apartment to honour the occasion. Or they tried to, anyway.
“Later when security caught on to us we just put the heart in the foyer of the building,” she said with a laugh.
Reflecting, Marilyn says the sky was the limit for her husband of 40 years. When it came to life and laughter, and to the radio program he hosted on VOCM, the more outlandish the better.
“He loved the variety of people he spoke with. He was into drama. He was a showman, and his programs were shows.”
And they were always fun, too.
Tit for Tat
“This one time, a woman called in and she was trying to nurse her baby to keep him quiet I guess and Ron was with her on the radio and as she talked she was nursing but the baby wasn’t interested so she goes; take the tit won’t ya or I’ll give it to Mr. Pumphrey!”
Marilyn pauses. “We married in 1980, so we had a beautiful 40 years.”
Marilyn says some of the beauty of their time together was how, for her, it was love at first sight. “When I met Ron in ’74, Ron and Joey Smallwood were probably the best known men in Newfoundland. When I saw him, I knew of him of course, but it was love at first sight.”
Pumphrey published a number of books including three autobiographies titled Human Beans in 2007, Proper Gander in 2008 and The Events Leading Up To My Death in 2010. Did she herself find him talented? “Oh yes!” she replies, adding she was a fan of one work in particular.
“The Last Days of the Last Father; Joey Smallwood. I think that was his greatest work because Joey was such an interesting character and Ron used to go spend time with him. Joey was getting quite old by then. Ron would just kind of write up what Joey was doing that day, just his life, how he was living then.”
‘Radio was his oyster’
Did she enjoy Smallwood’s company? “I thought Joey rather brisk. We used to go out to his house on Roaches Line for Christmas Eve. It was his birthday I believe. I was rather in awe of him, a living legend.”
Smallwood and Ron sometimes disagreed. “Ron could tear a strip off him one moment then be softer. He liked to have a well-rounded view of everybody.”
Of all his jobs, radio was his life. “The radio, that was his oyster. At one point Ron tried to get through to the Kremlin. He didn’t make it but it made a great show. Then a guy who buried himself in a coffin down in the States, but took a phone with him, Ron talked to him.”
Even though he signed off his show saying; what a wonderful world, he didn’t really believe that, she adds. “Ron didn’t really believe it was a wonderful world. He saw the world for what it was; a lot of misery, a lot of strife. He wasn’t an eternal optimist, that’s for sure.”
Her husband died at 87. She has no regrets from their years together.
’Til we meet again
“I try to tell myself, I had a wonderful man for 40 years. New Year’s Eve past we were standing looking at the fireworks over the city…” she pauses to wipe away a tear before continuing.
“We knew he was dying, and he said, I’ll drop in next New Year’s, now you be here. We believe life is eternal and we will meet again. I think he’s somewhere holding court with Geoff Stirling and Joey,” she said laughing at the thought.
There’s more stories; like the time Stirling sent Ron to try and sell copies of The Herald in New York right on Broadway.
Another interesting Stirling tidbit? “I was protesting the seal hunt in the early ’80s, I was almost skinned alive for that. But Geoff was interested in what I was doing. He said his mother was stranded on the ice and had it not been for her seal skin coat she would have frozen to death. So I thought long and hard on that.”
Marilyn smiles on the decades of memories. Like a time in Morocco Ron was encouraged to belly dance; he had left his drawers in their hotel room.
“He didn’t twirl very high,” she says with a laugh. Or the time Ron called up John C. Doyle, taking him up on an offer to visit for a week. “Life with Ron was always interesting,” she says with a grin. “I smiled. I laughed. I was never bored.”