Editor's note: Henry passed away in the fall of 2016.
Journalist, husband, father, grandfather, global citizen, follower of Jesus.
I don't know how to prioritize those qualities - they are all important to me. I grew up in a literary family. My maternal grandmother wrote short stories and poems. My sister was a writer and was taking correspondence courses in short-story writing from a US college when MS cut her life short at age 45. One brother was a high school English teacher and had various commentaries about his job and about his Air Force experience in the war published in several journals as well as one of Peter Gzowski's books. My mother kept up a wide correspondence all her life (people wrote letters in those days) and they were all works of literary merit.
One picks up a lot of knowledge as the years go by. So at 86 one would expect that I should be a lot wiser and better informed than I was at 21 - except that I have forgotten most of it. There is, however, one conviction that came to me early in life and has stayed with me ever since. We can never buld a sane, safe, sustainable global society as long as greed and blame are the key motivators in our lives.
I became a journalist because I am convinced that the media has a key role to play - perhaps the most essential role - in changing society. It was a happy accident that I became an agriculture journalist. And I've enjoyed every day of the nearly 50 years since The Canadian Press bureau chief pointed at me and said: "Heald, you're agriculture." But it did not change my basic conviction about the world-changing role of the media. And now that I no longer have the energy to function as a farm writer, I still have the passion to fight for the media to be the setter of values to bring about a new order in society. The churches are too divided to do it. The politicians are too preoccupied with their careers to do it. The multinational industrial complex doesn't seem interested and we have seen the colossal failure of the world's financial system to stabilize society. The media is our only hope.
How good a farm writer you are depends on what you know about agriculture. How good a journalist you are depends on what you know about life. Writing interesting and informative articles about the agriculture industry may be our role, but giving people the tools to make informed decisions about life should be the vocation of every journalist.
I finally got around to marrying my high school sweetheart after ten years of globe trotting for an international charitable organization. She bore us two daughters who I unbiasedly describe as the two most intelligent women I know. One of them has her MA in journalism from University of Western Ontario and is now a published novelist. The other is an archivist now employed by York University to keep their records in shape. Between them they have produced three grandsons and a granddaugher. I hope there will be at least one journalist emerge from that crew.