One-time Sun reporter hoping for brighter days after fire /Link
All Gordon Atkinson wants for Christmas is a roof over his head. The one he was living under at 184 Weston Road was destroyed by fire Nov. 29. “I lost just about everything,” the 64-year-old told me. “Family pictures, my stories I wrote for newspapers and my inflatable girlfriend.” He didn’t lose his sense of […]
All Gordon Atkinson wants for Christmas is a roof over his head.
The one he was living under at 184 Weston Road was destroyed by fire Nov. 29.
“I lost just about everything,” the 64-year-old told me. “Family pictures, my stories I wrote for newspapers and my inflatable girlfriend.”
He didn’t lose his sense of humour. We saw lots of Gord’s wit first-hand in the Toronto Sun newsroom since he worked here as a reporter and police radio room operator in 1995-96.
Many Torontonians may know his face from working for many years in the Bingo Tent at the CNE.
We know him as a colleague and a peer. Gord’s story is the stuff of movies. He is from Onion Lake Cree Nation Reserve on the Alberta Saskatchewan border but also considers Edmonton his home town.
“I came to Toronto in 1990 and it’s home now,” he said.
Before he got here he studied journalism and communications at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton before landing an internship with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, which led him to a job at the Toronto Sun.
He’s very proud and appreciative that editors Lorrie Goldstein and Kevin Hann took him under their wing and learned so much about big city reporting from David Kendall.
“I am very proud to have worked for the Sun and on the StarPhoenix and for the First Nations ones I wrote for, too.”
He always liked more colourful leads. Like the time he wrote about the woman who was arrested with marijuana in her bra, to which he penned ‘police say it was the biggest bust of the day.”
Or when a train was late because of a problem with a track he wrote how there was a time when “a train being held up involved Jesse James.”
He may have driven an editor or two nuts with his approach, but Gord’s a character who was well-liked around here.
I had lost track of Gord and had been wondering where he was. After hearing about the fire with photographer Jack Boland, I tracked him down Thursday and we went for a coffee and a sandwich near the Distillery District. We found him hobbling a bit and his face even more weathered with the realities of life than it was when I saw him every day more than 20 years ago.
But his spirit and zest for life is still very much there, even though his journey before he worked at the Sun and his journey after has not been an easy one.
“I have spent some time living outside and I admit I drank too much,” he said.
The last time I saw him he had been bloodied by someone who allegedly assaulted him. Those can be mean streets and even meaner sidewalks. He admits to even have the experience of having an occasional sleep under the Gardiner Expressway.
“But I have been doing pretty well in recent years. I am close to my daughter Shawna and her four kids, so it’s good,” he told me. “ I don’t drink now and I had my own bachelor apartment.”
Just like that, however, he now finds himself homeless again.
He’s going to bunk in with his daughter’s family through Christmas but after that things are up in the air.
Toronto Fire tell me he had nothing to do with the blaze and are unsure if the home, which suffered burns, smoke and water damage, will be repairable for him to return to.
In the meantime, his niece in British Columbia has said up a GoFundMe page that can be found online or through Atkinson’s Facebook account. As of deadline, $750 had been raised.
Gord credits Toronto firefighters for getting him out of the basement because he didn’t even know the place was burning down.
“I think that one firefighter probably saved my life,” he said.
Yet another story of survival for Gord Atkinson. He’s like a cat with nine lives. He just keeps on purring.
True, his battle scars are on full display, but so is his optimism. He wears both proudly.
We loved him here. He was a colleague and friend who was always quick with a joke and a smile – even if that smile doesn’t flash as many pearly whites as he once did.
“I think I have about four teeth left,” he joked.
Doesn’t matter. No one has a better smile than Gordon Atkinson.
Published on 08 Dec 2017 at 12:09AM