Ross Mavis. (Submitted photo)

Ross Mavis. (Submitted photo)

Former North Island Gazette owner/publisher passes away

In 1974 Mavis partnered with Roland Shanks to buy the Gazette from Shanks’ parents

Former co-owner and publisher of the North Island Gazette, Ross Mavis passed away peacefully in Saint John, NB on June 12.

Mavis was born Sept. 18, 1941 in Langley, BC where his pioneer ancestors had once owned Fort Langley. His early years were spent clerking with the Bank of Montreal before arriving in Port Hardy in the early 1970s as secretary-treasurer of School District 85.

In 1974 he partnered with Roland Shanks whom he had met during his work in the formation of the Port Hardy Kinsmen Club and the two of them pooled their funds to buy the Gazette from Shanks’ parents, Neville & Regina Shanks who were eager to retire.

Mavis undertook the duties as publisher while Shanks chaperoned the production and business side of the venture.

One evening while socializing the two compared their previous working lives and discovered not only were they born two days apart, they had crossed paths before at a party in Dawson City fifteen years previously. The partnership proved highly successful. Mavis’ personnel skills helped assemble an enthusiastic crew of dedicated employees who pushed The Gazette to the forefront of Canadian weekly newspaper journalism, winning not only the recognition of their peers in the industry but numerous provincial and national awards as well, including best paper in its class in Canada..

“I couldn’t have asked for a better partner,” Shanks said recently. “In the 10 years we were together, we never had a serious dispute and even disagreements were few and far between.”

In 1985 the pair sold the paper and Mavis moved to Toronto to become executive director of the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.

It was there he met and married Willa Colpitts After several years with CCNA he moved further east to take up a position with the United Way charitable organization in Saint John, NB and led it to a record setting year.

Having been a founding member of Port Hardy Rotary Club, he was at home in the Saint John club, chairing several projects with them.

His sociable demeanor and culinary skills meanwhile were bubbling to the surface and he and his wife Willa eventually bought a former estate outside Saint John and began operating the Inn On The Cove & Spa.

It was soon the recipient of the KC Irving Tourism Award as the Best Heritage Inn in New Brunswick.

It wasn’t long before Mavis became president of the Heritage Inns Association of New Brunswick

He and Willa published two cookbooks while entertaining visitors and catering to numerous Saint John events.

The Mavis’ hosted a cooking show on the local cable TV channel for a number of years where the couple presented a homey approach to gourmet cooking. The show was picked up by PBS and broadcast throughout New England. They became local celebrities as a result and were interviewed by notables such as Peter Gzowski and Vicki Gabereau.

Mavis was an active member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, serving for a while as president of the Southwest Chapter, sitting on the National Board as Atlantic representative. His cooking advice columns were carried by several Maritime publications

His involvement in Maritime life was total as he pursued his wide ranging interests. Over time, he was a member and often a driving force in such organizations as the Saint John Naturalists Club, the Saint John Christmas Lights Campaign, the SPCA, Sculpture Saint John, the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign, the Fundy Model Airplane Club, Hammond River Fishing Association and the KV Old Boys.

In 2010 the Inn On The Cove suffered a catastrophic fire that left the Mavis’ unable to rebuild. They retired to their summer home at Hardings Point on the Saint John River where Mavis continued to write.

Mavis is predeceased by his parents. Edward and Grace and cousin Bruce Mavis of Langley, BC. In addition to his wife Willa (Gorham/Colpitts), he will be greatly missed by sons Philip, Victoria, BC (Michelle); Darren of Nanaimo, (grandchildren Dylan, Darrius and Brooklyn) Morgan of Toronto (Christopher Bennell) (grandson Rhodeo Bennell)

A Celebration of Life was held at the Rothesay Yacht Club on June 28.

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