The final sign off

You can hear a smile on the radio. It's a secret Ron McFadyen learned after a lifetime in broadcasting. The CKRW news anchor is retiring, but his radio won't be.

You can hear a smile on the radio.

It’s a secret Ron McFadyen learned after a lifetime in broadcasting.

The CKRW news anchor is retiring, but his radio won’t be.

“I’m going to have a hard time turning it off,” he said, sitting in his cluttered office on Tuesday.

A 2006 snow-carving poster was on the wall, hanging beside a Run For Mum placard and territorial election results that were three years old.

“I think I could have just put this off forever,” said McFadyen.

“But the stars aligned. I was tired, and I want to be out in the sun walking my dog Bailey.”

The job was stressful, he said.

“Every job has stress, but our stress is different—your head always has to be in the game.”

McFadyen was on his way home from work one evening and saw a rip in the wall tent that sits in front of the SS Klondike during the summer.

“If you wonder why, it means there’s probably a story there,” he said.

The next morning, he called Parks Canada.

There’d been thousands of dollars worth of damage by vandals.

McFadyen broke the story.

“You have to have a nose for news,” he said.

McFadyen’s been in the business for 51 years.

“I built a complete communication receiver when I was 13,” he said.

“I’ve always been interested in electronics and radios.”

McFadyen credits his father—a Second World War Spitfire pilot—for his mechanical bent.

He actually wanted to be a pilot himself, but at 15 started wearing glasses, and the dream disappeared.

By that time, McFadyen had already started working at the local Cranbrook, BC, radio station on weekends and after school, playing music and reading the weather.

Three years later, he was pilfered.

A radio producer in Lethbridge, Alberta, heard the youngster on air and called him up.

“Normally, you go to a station and you’re on air the next day,” said McFadyen.

But the manager took the teenager under his wing and taught him the ropes.

“I went to the school of hard knocks,” he said.

A couple years later, he was doing radio and TV in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, then moved on to work in Regina.

That’s when he got wind of a radio station starting up in Whitehorse.

“I had no idea where Whitehorse was,” he said.

But in November 1969, McFadyen came north and helped put CKRW on air.

Supporting the fledgling station took a lot of work, and by 1971 McFadyen needed a break.

He went to work for a friend at Murdoch’s Gem Shop, and ended up making gold nugget jewelry.

“I visited mine fields all over this territory, and saw jars of gold nuggets that were so heavy you could barely lift them,” he said.

Tripping over mastodon tusks was common back then, and McFayden saw plenty of them washed out of hillsides through hydraulic mining.

Although the new job was an adventure, McFadyen couldn’t shake the crackle and static of broadcasting.

In 1973, he started working for the CBC.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” he said.

“I’ve been to every Yukon community, and covered the Arctic Winter Games from the mid-1970s until 1996.

“I learned how to interview sports people, and that’s not an easy thing to do.”

McFadyen was so good at “getting behind the game,” CBC made him its sports reporter in the mid-‘80s.

“I found a niche market speaking to children,” he said.

McFayden pulled up an audio file and handed me some headphones.

A little girl was talking about building birdhouses with her dad at Swan Haven on the weekend; there was hammering in the background.

“I like chickadees and magpies,” she said.

McFayden was beaming.

“Kids know what they’re talking about,” he said.

“Often people ask them ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, but I want to hear what they have to say.”

McFadyen has been back at CKRW for the last nine years.

He still does sports, but he also got into news.

“Live radio is so interesting,” he said, remembering a teachers’ protest in front of the territorial government building.

McFadyen had just interviewed the premier and came out and played it live for the teacher’s union president.

With jeering and cheering in the background, he got the union’s live response.

“That was cool,” he said.

“But you have to be on.”

And you need to be in the right place at the right time.

“You have to be at the ballpark and hear that final ball thud,” he said.

Covering the territory’s news and sports didn’t leave McFadyen much time for his wife and two kids.

“I missed my children growing up,” he said.

“I was in town, but I wasn’t home.”

Now his daughter is living in BC with a family of her own, and his son is in Toronto.

“Sometimes they’d come to watch games with me, but I was always working,” he said.

McFadyen’s work ethic was passed on through his father.

“He always said, ‘If you’re going to do a job, do it right,’” he said.

McFadyen is going to “have trouble letting go” of radio.

But he’s not fully out of it yet.

The founder of the Yukon Amateur Radio Association will continue to ham it up on air.

Always interested in radio’s technical side, McFadyen and his ham-radio friends put their first receiver up on Haeckel Hill in the 1970s.

“There are 19 in the Yukon now,” said McFadyen.

“I even have one in my house.”

McFadyen has flown into Mount Decoli slinging receiver equipment up 2,500 metres.

And he’s hiked up Montana Mountain with a 27-kilogram pack full of receiver parts on his back.

It was all worth it.

When forest fires were ravaging the territory several years ago, McFadyen was contacted by Yukon emergency measures.

They needed to contact a microwave station near Swift River, and they needed to do it immediately.

McFadyen got on his handheld radio, copied a few codes and had the guy on the receiver.

“When they needed us, we were there,” he said.

McFadyen was awarded a volunteer award this month for his work with the amateur radio association.

Although ham radio will keep him on the airwaves, McFadyen is going to miss the news.

It will be hard to sit and just listen, he said.

And his watch is not coming off yet.

“It’s always on, and it’s accurate to the second,” said McFadyen with a smile.

“It’s also going to be difficult to go to a really big event and have to sit in the crowd, because I’ve always been down there where the action is,” he added.

“I guess I’ll just have to volunteer.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read