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Champion of local radio remembered fondly in Vernon

Longtime broadcaster Gord Leighton dies of cancer Tuesday, July 18, at age 78
Former Vernon Sun FM radio general manager Gord Leighton, the driving force behind starting a community radio station in Vernon, died Tuesday, July 18, at the age of 79. (Morning Star - file photo)

The microphone has gone silent on a well-known B.C. broadcaster.

Gord Leighton died in Vernon from cancer on Tuesday, July 18, at the age of 78.

Leighton spent five decades in broadcasting. He was a long-time general manager at CKPG radio and television in Prince George, and a former Prince George city councillor from 1999-2002. Leighton ran unsuccessfully for a seat on Vernon council in 2018.

He was also a former president of the B.C. Association of Broadcasters for two terms, and was named Broadcaster of the Year in 1997.

Leighton moved to the Okanagan in 2003 to become general manager of CICF (SUN FM) radio, and was behind the push for a community radio station in Vernon.

“Gord was an awesome boss, always had my back,” said Betty Selin, who co-hosted the popular Sunrise Show on Sun with Brian Martin, and joined Leighton to help with the community station process. “No one was a bigger champion of local radio than Gord.”

In a 2017 interview with The Morning Star, Leighton said he’s “not wired to hang around and do nothing.”

After negotiating his severance package that year from Bell Media (parent company of Sun), Leighton started the not-for-profit Vernon Community Radio Society with the eventual goal of operating a community radio station.

“I have many good friends and broadcasting colleagues at both SUN and KISS (FM stations in Vernon) and I respect the good work done by both stations,” said Leighton. “This initiative is not a slam, a poke or a disparagement of current services. This is simply an opportunity to create new, refreshingly different content…”

While The Valley is currently streaming online, Leighton never got to see his community station dream turn into a reality. Studio space has been located but fundraising continues for station infrastructure.

He was diagnosed recently with stage 4 cancer, as was his longtime wife, Peggy. A GoFundMe campaign to help the Leightons had raised nearly $4,000 toward a $5,000 goal as of Wednesday, July 19.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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