On Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 5 AM Robert (Bob) MacDonald, Toronto Sun columnist, former reporter, fighter of communism at a time when it all seemed hopeless, lost his 13 and a half year fight with prostate cancer. The Toronto Sun spent four pages for each of two days eulogizing him, but many missed the story that meant so much to those who came from eastern Europe.
In the seventies and eighties, dark ages for those who thought that communism was a lethal danger, MacDonald was one of maybe four writers in Toronto who kept reminding us we were right. MacDonald's greatest asset was that he didn't come from Europe but it didn't do his career a great deal of good to fight an unpopular fight. It was simply the right thing to do.
MacDonald was writing about Mart Niklus, an Estonian dissident who spent more time in Soviet prisons than Nelson Mandela, in the sixties when he was writing for the Telegram. When Niklus met MacDonald at the Sun, in the late eighties, he explained how much articles in the free world, about him, when he was in jail, meant to him.
When the Red Army Chorus came to sing at Toronto's Massey Hall in 1987, eastern Europeans, Jews and Afghans were out in numbers to demonstrate. Their chants of "shame, shame, shame" could be heard through the frail walls. MacDonald was there as the only star of the event. When the Slovaks gave MacDonald a ticket, he went into the Hall, only to be thrown out shortly by the police. MacDonald came out to huge cheers. This gave him material for the first of three articles.
MacDonald left us at the age of 76, which was jam-packed with hard living. He was born in Plymouth Port, Nova Scotia where he played sports the hard way. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with hockey scholarship from Acadia University. He then received a Masters Degree from Columbia University in the New York City. MacDonald first worked at the Toronto Star for two years, followed by the Telegram for ten years. He then joined the Sun where he wrote the first headline story, breaking a federal government scandal. MacDonald finished 55 years of newspaper work at the Sun.
Those who had the honour to be trained by MacDonald, on how to dig up information had training unexcelled by any journalism school.
MacDonald wrote many articles on Estonia that contributed to keeping our nation's fate in the public eye. He was honoured by the Estonian Central Council with their Medal of Merit. He will be greatly missed.
Estonians lose a friend with Bob MacDonald's passing