Issue 110

On The Cover: Jonathan Reaume and Ahron Goldman from Dish Delish Photo by Trevor Booth

Issue 107 - John Fairley from Face to Face

Many know John as Vice-President, College Communications & Community Relations at St. Clair College and those with Cogeco cable television know John for his long-running community cable program, Face to Face, which is in its 16th season! Still, the community at large knows John as the consummate Ambassador of Good Will for the City of Windsor, a renowned Master of Ceremonies for any event and a Fundraiser Extraordinaire.

Despite his early roller-coaster career John Fairley has always felt as if a divine providence has guided his life. He knew something positive would always happen just when life looked the bleakest. And even when it seemed as if his life was off course, there were always signs he was going in the right direction. John cannot offer an explanation other than shrug his shoulders, smile, and gesture to the sky. He believes in God and in a purpose-driven life. He believes in being charitable and supportive of his community and when it comes to speaking out on behalf of those in need, his voice is always loud and clear, even when he doesn’t say a word!

Many know John as Vice-President, College Communications & Community Relations at St. Clair College and those with Cogeco cable television know John for his long-running community cable program, Face to Face, which is in its 16th season! Still, the community at large knows John as the consummate Ambassador of Good Will for the City of Windsor, a renowned Master of Ceremonies for any event and a Fundraiser Extraordinaire.

For many, many years John has been personally involved with countless charities and organizations serving Windsor/Essex, and this award is in recognition of his efforts in helping Hospice – an organization he has worked closely for 25 years, raising nearly $85,000 this year. Other organizations dear to his heart are “In Honour Of The Ones We Love”, Community Living Windsor and volunteering with various agencies.

For John, the concept of ‘charity begins at home’ was manifest through the efforts of his tireless mother.

“She was always involved in something,” he recalled, “she was always on the go,...she took care of a family of five, a husband and three boys and still she made time to help out in the community.” John smiled and added, “She was the gas and my Dad was the brake.”

John said one of her most enduring involvements was helping establish Grace Hospital’s annual Tree of Lights.

John grew up emulating his mother’s charitable nature, willing to help out whenever he was asked but he also harboured a growing desire for the “limelight.”

“But I’m not an extrovert,” he laughed.

Still, from his days at Centennial high school where he made a lasting impression on “amateur night” doing impressions of teachers, he has never been shy about ‘performing’ in front of an audience.

“I won that contest,” he beamed and with that distinction, John became the voice for the morning announcements at school. The seeds of the future had been planted.

After graduating from the University of Windsor with a degree in Marketing/Communications, John hoped to land a job at the CKLW radio/television station.

Instead, he was hired by a local company that designs and fabricates huge inflatables – the giant beavers, moose and Mounties at the Vancouver Olympics – and many others we see bobbing in the air during special events. No, not exactly his career choice but he was working and it didn’t mean he was giving up on his ambitions.

“I still had hopes for CKLW,” he said, “there were many times I would drive through their parking lot or sometimes park and just sit in my car imagining myself working there, it was something I dreamed about all the time.” John finally did land an opportunity at CKLW in the sales department. Again, not really what he was trained for but he was in the door. And it was a good fit for John, he’s a people person and – as many would agree – has a natural talent for persuasion.

“It was really a great time,” John reflected. “I was meeting so many prominent business people and well-known radio and television personalities both here in Windsor and Detroit.”

Then came a promotion for Weight Watchers.

“They came to the station and asked if we wanted to participate in their 13 week program for charity.” explained John. “They asked one employee from the station to volunteer for the program and people would pledge money for every pound the employee loss. The employee could choose the charity the money raised would benefit.

Now, John is a big guy and his affable personality made him a popular choice. He agreed and would go on to lose 40 pounds during that 13 week program and raise “a couple of thousand dollars.”

John donated his portion of the proceeds to the Hospice which was planning their location on the city’s east side.

“That was my first involvement with Hospice,” said John, “my Mother was already a strong supporter of Hospice and their work and she would say, I hope no one needs to go there.”

However in a bittersweet twist, John’s Mom was stricken with terminal cancer and became one of the first patients at the Hospice village.

From here John’s relationship with Hospice grew closer and he became more involved. Teaming up with the dedicated volunteers, his Face to Face Campaign for the past 14 years continues to positively impact the lives of many.

Meanwhile, the publicity John gained from the Weight Watchers promotional along with his engaging personality invited interest from other people in the business...one thing led to another and then came the idea for a live, on location, radio show with John co-hosting with Dave Prince.

“It was called the “Great Air Show.” John fondly recalled, “every Friday night we set up our equipment in the corner of the main dining room in TBQ’s Other Place restaurant and did a live broadcast. We would invite and interview people from the community, and local television and radio celebrities.”

John said the show ran for 26 weeks and it was a huge success. Unfortunately the show was not renewed after its initial run and though John was disappointed he had distinguished himself being part of as a legitimate talk show.

“It was a fun experience and it really made me want to do more live shows.” he said.

But not yet. In fact his career was about to turn in a completely different direction.

“One day I was offered an opportunity to earn more money with another company” he said. “So I took the job.”

The company John went to work for had an office in London and their speciality was selling advertisements on city buses.

“This was back when this was just becoming a popular form of advertising” John explained. “And no one was doing it down here.”

He became the regional sales rep with a large district and was behind the push for advertising on the City of Windsor’s first painted bus, “It was for Big V with their crusader logo,” he said.

John thought he had found a job with a very promising future, unfortunately, he could not have known that the roller-coaster was rolling downward.

While John said he was earning good money and he had a good first year he was suddenly surprised and dismayed when his job was terminated after just one year.

“I felt a bit taken advantage of,” he said. “I worked hard establishing a client base across the district and then,...I was out of a job.”

“After that,” John said contritely, “I couldn’t get hired anywhere.”

Well, remember providence? John would smile and say, “There’s something higher at work here” to explain how sometimes even his steps backward seemed to move him forward. But to his credit, he has always maintained a strong bond with the people in this community – he’s made a lot of friends – and before the sting of losing his last job had completely eased, he was offered another one.

Now his career began another run around the track. In a series of employment changes from phone sales to selling office equipment, from managing the Ottawa Street Market Square to managing Bingo halls, his career kept rolling up and down but all the while John continued to build-up his professional and community connections. He continued to be involved in volunteer work including working with the Rotary Club and their T. V. Charity Auctions. John’s ease and comfort working in front of the camera, his sincere and positive powers of persuasion impressed a producer at Cogeco T.V. who asked John if he would consider volunteering for community television.

“He wanted someone to do live interviews,” said John, no doubt struggling to contain his enthusiasm. He longed to do live shows again and here was an opportunity. He happily agreed – so began John Fairley’s long and popular community cable talk show, Face to Face.

Well, not quite. Actually John’s first show was called “Council Close-up.”

“We started off doing interviews at city hall,” he said, adding with a mischievous smile, “we would strategically set our cameras in the hallway between the washrooms and council chambers and wait to get comments from passing councillors.” John laughed and shook his head, “I would just walk up to a councillor or the mayor, hold the microphone up and then quickly say, “We are here live with councillor so and so. Councillor what do you have to say about the issue.”

This was the prelude to Face to Face. The community cable talk show where John invites guests for an intimate, one-on-one interview about important and interesting topics. He has had many well-known local personalities on his show and such notable visitors such as Andrea Horwath; Thomas Mulcair and Sandra Pupatello.

“I’ve gone toe to toe with a few people,” said John with a wry smile. “I’ll call people out when I know they are being evasive or they’re refusing to answer questions I know they have answers for...I like using a method I call “silence is loud,” he grinned. “If my guest is being a bit too stubborn, I’ll ask the question and then just sit there in dead silence, I don’t say a word. I just wait for a reply.”

And from time to time John has to face his own critics – his audience. “I’ll have people come up to me especially after I have interviewed someone like a politician and they’ll say things like, oh, you should have asked this question or that question. But I just smile and thank them for their interest,” then John added with a laugh, “Sometimes I’m surprised people actually watch the show.”

So what does it take to conduct a good interview?

“You have to be prepared,” he said “And it’s more than just researching the person or the topic. You have to be prepared to go in whatever direction the interview goes. Never divulge your questions before the interview and above all else, you have to listen to your guest.”

Today, John is in his 16th season of Face to Face. He is still doing volunteer work, still lending his gregarious personality on behalf of charities and special events. One event John is especially looking forward to is his role as Master of Ceremonies for this spring’s Memorial Cup being held in Windsor.

However, all of this is still secondary to John’s main focus and endeavours: his role at St. Clair College. Back in 2007, John was hired by St. Clair College for Alumni Relations. He was finally nearing his career goals and then solidified them when he became Vice-President of College Communications & Community Relations.

It is a role he knows well and dearly embraces. He points out that this year is significantly important as the college celebrates their 50th anniversary.

“We have a lot of plans and promotions for this year’s celebrations,” John offered enthusiastically. “We are working with the community and inviting the public to participate in a number of initiatives such as “50 Acts From the Heart” where staff and students help the community and “50 for 50 Campaign” a fundraiser asking people to donate 50 dollars to the college for their 50th.”

John said he is excited for this year-long celebration but it will also be a very busy time for the 55 year-old bachelor. He admits he must guard against becoming spread too thin and he has had to reign in his time, saying his job requires his full dedication and besides, John has been working more and more with talented young people. In their eyes they see John as a respected and experienced media personality, while John said, “I hope I can bring my experiences and knowledge and help teach the next generation.”

From the beginning of his life’s journey, John has followed in the shadow of providence and while he may not always know the course he will follow he will always trust in the direction he is faced. He has distinguished himself as a true community advocate and leader. His charitable involvements, his sense of purpose and depth of heart are seemingly boundless and even when he gets tired he finds his strength from above and meets life – with open arms – and face to face.

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