W.B. (Bill) Plaunt Jr.

W.B. (Bill) Plaunt, Jr.Birthdate
September 2, 1915

November 6, 1993

Photo Credit
Science North Sudbury

W.B. (Bill) Plaunt Jr. was born to W.B. (William Bell) Plaunt Sr. and Mildred Martha Hicks.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, farming, bush work and lumbering were closely related. This was the kind of work that was in the Plaunt family blood. W.B. Plaunt Sr. worked on the family farm in the Renfrew area before heading out on his own exploring lumbering opportunities and in fact Plaunt Sr. would become a significant player in the lumber business in Northern Ontario back in the early 1900s. He moved around in Northern Ontario as he lumbered for other companies. This eventually led to securing his own timber rights and contracting to companies. Plaunt Sr. even established a mill, logging camps and founded a village that included a school, store, homes for his employees and his office.

Bill Plaunt began working for his father after he completed grade thirteen. He soon became the ‘walking boss’ of his father’s bush operations in the Lake Pogamasing area. Eventually in 1938 W.B. (Bill) Plaunt Jr. joined his father in business forming their own company, W.B. Plaunt and Son. Plaunt Jr. was able to take over the reins of the company allowing Plaunt Sr. to take some time for himself and explore other business opportunities. Following the death of his father in 1960, he continued to carry on with the family business interests in Sudbury.

In addition to serving as Chairman of Cambrian Broadcasting Ltd., Bill Plaunt Jr. had several interests including the development of Science North in Sudbury. Involved at the grassroots level, his objective was to establish a modern and one-of-a-kind science centre for Northern Ontario. He remained consistent in his support for the facility. Bill set the bar for support from within the small business sector of the area when he announced a donation in the amount of $150,000 on behalf of the United Broadcasting Limited (formerly Cambrian Broadcasting Limited) shareholders and staff. This was the largest single donor in this sector. It encouraged and inspired other companies in the Sudbury area to contribute as well.

Bill Plaunt Jr. did not stop there. He was a great advocate of the Science North Campaign by urging municipal level contributions as well.

W.B. (Bill) Plaunt, Jr.Additionally, Bill Plaunt Jr. and another Sudbury businessman, Risto Laamanen, were key players in helping to found the Rusty Blakey Heritage Aviation Group in 1987. Blakey (1911-1986) was a friend of the two and was one of aviation’s pioneers who flew for Austin Airways, Canada’s oldest airline. It’s believed that Rusty Blakey would hang around the Austin Airways Sudbury docks on Ramsey Lake until they gave him a job. Blakey received his commercial pilot’s licence in 1938 after having soloed no more than five hours. He would achieve many extraordinary feats in his career earning him many awards including the Ontario Bicentennial Citizenship Award and Honorary Life Member of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. He was a member of the Order of Canada and also honoured by being inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. It seemed fitting to Plaunt and Laamanen that Rusty Blakey should be honoured with a commemorative sculpture and what better location than at Science North overlooking Ramsey Lake where Blakey got his start. The two businessmen organized Rusty Blakey aviation activities and lead fundraising campaigns for the sculpture which was created by Lynda and Ron Baird and erected in August of 1988.

It was in the year 1960 when Bill Plaunt became active in CKSO Radio and TV. However, he did continue running the lumber business and other interests. He was proud of the community minded staff and its efforts to become directly involved with the people and events of the area. Since signing on the air, both the CKSO radio and television operations have played an active part of the community, eagerly involved and promoting the interests of the area. Bill was proud of such initiative demonstrated long before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) began insisting on such community commitment.

Bill Plaunt stated in an early 1982 interview that he was not a broadcaster. He thought of himself as a lumberman, businessman, pilot and world traveler. Reflecting on the early days of operating a new television station, Bill recollected with a chuckle that they thought they would be in the red for three years, but in reality the company was in the black in only about six months. He recalls the management’s faith in the longevity of radio despite all the excitement and novelty of bringing television to Sudbury for the first time. As visionaries they did not believe radio would die, but they had the foresight to anticipate that radio would need to change. Much of what was broadcast over commercial radio could now be seen as well as heard and so while television became the source for such entertainment, radio would transform heavily into a music and information format.

Bill Plaunt served as Chairperson of the Board of Governors of Laurentian University between 1971 and 1973. He was also granted an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 1983. Bill was active with the Sudbury Memorial Hospital and was a director with the Sudbury Wolves Junior Hockey Club.

On November 6, 1993 W.B. (Bill) Plaunt Jr. passed away. He was 78. He was survived by his wife Agnes of 54 years of marriage, children, Sandra, Donald, Misty, Mary Lee and Laurie, also several grandchildren. Agnes died in July of 2017. In a CP press release dated November 9, 1993, Gary Duguay, AM Program Director from 1975 to 85 described Plaunt’s ingenuity in forging ahead and lending confidence to his staff. “He certainly was an innovator. He took chances that others wouldn’t take. When people came to him with an idea he’d let them try it.” The same article quoted George Lund who worked for Plaunt for nearly 20 years as General Manager who said, “It’s such a blow. He was a mainstay in the community and in broadcasting.”

With gratitude and appreciation extended to Andy Thomson, family historian for his invaluable assistance.
Visit Andy’s website, Andy Thomson Books, andythomsonbooks.ca.

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