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In Memorium: Edith Iglauer

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2019 at 11:47am

It is with profound sadness we note the passing of author Edith Iglauer, who died in Sechelt Hospital on Feb. 13, 2019. Edith published five books with Harbour: Seven Stones: A Portrait of Arthur Erickson, Architect (1981); Fishing with John (1988); Dennison’s Ice Road (1991); The Strangers Next Door (1991); and Inuit Journey: The Co-operative Adventure in Canada’s North (2000.)

Born in Cleveland, Ohio on March 10, 1917, Edith Iglauer grew up in a comfortably well-off Cleveland family. She began selling her articles to newspapers in her hometown while she attended the School of Journalism at Columbia University. She married writer/editor Philip Hamburger and raised two sons in New York. One is Jay Hamburger, artistic director for Theatre in the Raw in Vancouver; the other is Richard Hamburger, a teacher and director of theatre in New York City.

As a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, Iglauer chiefly wrote about Canada. Her first book, The New People (1966, reprinted and updated as Inuit Journey in 1979 and 2000), chronicled the growth of Indigenous people's cooperatives in the eastern Arctic.

Divorced in 1966, she first came to Vancouver in 1973 for an assignment to write about fishing. She subsequently met and married John Heywood Daly, a sophisticated but overtly rough-hewn commercial salmon troller. She moved to his home at Garden Bay (part of Pender Harbour) on the B.C. coast in 1974 but he died in 1978.

After writing Seven Stones: A Portrait of Arthur Erickson, Architect (1981), Edith Iglauer Daly began recording her memories of her late husband and his salmon troller. The result was Fishing with John, a bestseller and nominee for the 1989 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. It recounts how Iglauer left New York to live with an iconoclastic fisherman as a "fishwife" aboard the Morekelp. Yes, there are fish. But readers were intrigued to learn about how John Daly always turned off the engine every afternoon to listen to classical music on CBC.

Acclaimed by Publishers Weekly as "superb", excerpted by Saturday Night and the New Yorker, Fishing With John was intended to serve as a scrupulous celebration of commercial fishing, not a depiction of true-life romance. But the soul of the book turned out to be the Shakespeare-loving trade unionist John Daly. "What I hate more than anything," Daly says "are polite arseholes who' agree. That's the road to destruction of mental protein. I believe in struggle -and that physical and moral softness is death, and that we human beings can do anything."

Fishing With John became the basis for a Hallmark movie, Navigating the Heart (2000), starring one of the former Charlie's Angels, Jaclyn Smith. During the making of the made-for-TV movie, Jaclyn Smith, the actor once voted the most beautiful woman in the world, received an autographed copy of Edith Iglauer's West Coast memoir from the author. "It was interesting to see myself portrayed by someone younger and more beautiful than I am,"; Iglauer laughed. "I hope the movie is reasonably honest about fishing... About the only criticism I could make is that the actors weren't dirty enough. They didn't have blood all over themselves!"

Retaining her surname Iglauer for publication purposes, Edith Iglauer Daly released a collection of shorter works gleaned from her career in journalism, The Strangers Next Door (1991), having profiled Pierre Trudeau in 1969 and internationally known architect Arthur Erickson in 1979. An original manuscript of her travels in northern Canada, Denison's Ice Road (1991) is about the building of a 325-mile winter road above the Arctic Circle.

After marrying Frank White, father of Harbour Publishing publisher Howard White, Edith Iglauer Daly White received her doctor of laws degree, honoris causa, from the University of Victoria on November 15, 2006, to celebrate her sixty years of writing as a journalist and author. "I started writing when I was a small girl, and I still write because I can't stop writing," she said. "... I can't emphasize enough the importance of good teaching at an early age."

Lynne Van Luven, as acting chair of the UVic's writing department, emphasized Edith's amazing work as a journalist over the past decades in her citation: "Edith has always been attracted to ground-breaking stories, whether they involved laying the foundations of the World Trade Centre... the building of an ice road in the Arctic, the making of a prime minister or the thinking of a West Coast fisherman. She maintains that journalists are the watchdogs of democracy; she believes in the power of the 'still small voice of truth.'"

Iglauer and Frank White continued to live together in Garden Bay until his death in 2015, during which time White published two volumes of autobiography, the second volume of which describes their unlikely union and their impressive world-wide travels, which lasted into their nineties. As a 100-year-old former truck driver, logger, gas station operator, "excavationist" and waterworks technician, Frank White released a follow-up to his first book, Milk Spills and One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver (Harbour 2014). He was accompanied to the book launch for the second volume of his memoirs, That Went By Fast (Harbour 2015) by his 97-years-young wife, Edith Iglauer. White was 101 when he died in October, 2015. When Edith died on Wednesday she was also 101.

(With files from Thanks to Alan Twigg.)