Joe Spence

Joe Spence - CKSO Radio & TVBirthplace
Toronto, Ontario

October 8, 1930

First Media Job
1952 - CKSO Radio

Joe Spence is a true veteran and pioneer of the broadcast industry. His career extended to over 45 years beginning at a time when technology had a way to go in so far as this industry operates. Teaching at Lansdowne Public School in Sudbury is what brought Joe to the area, but deeper in his heart must have been the call of the world of broadcasting. He started at CKSO Radio in 1952 as a sportscaster. From there Johnny Esaw hired Joe to work as Morning Man and Sportscaster at CKRM Radio in Regina. His time out west would be short lived as Joe returned to Sudbury and back at CKSO, but this time to work in the station’s new television division where he was hired for the fall of 1953 when CKSO TV signed on the air as the first privately owned Canadian television station.

His duties included hosting news and sports programs and station announcements. One of the program offerings from CKSO TV was a sports forum hosted by Joe. The first guest on the new show was Bob Masterson who at the time was coach of the Varsity Blues U of T football team.

Joe left Sudbury and headed for Ottawa in 1964, and like in Sudbury, Joe Spence would become a household name in the nation’s capital. He worked at CTV which at the time was known at CJOH TV. His next career move took him to CBC Radio, and then to that network’s local television station, CBOT.

He kept busy over these years anchoring news, sports and weather. He has the bragging rights of working with Johnny Esaw on CFL broadcasts. These broadcasts took Joe to the four eastern cities of Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. Joe would also do play-by-play for Global’s broadcasts of the Toronto Toros. The Toros were part of the World Hockey Association which garnered only a short life.

In 2008 Joe Spence received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Sports Media Category at the Annual Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner.

Joe returned to Sudbury in June of 2013 for a special evening in which he was inducted into the Greater Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame Media Category. In those earlier years Sudbury hockey fans would hang on Joe Spence’s every word, but even after 49 years since leaving Sudbury Joe would be remembered. He was also known as the voice of the Sudbury Wolves Senior Hockey Club. Inducted in the Media Category, Spence’s likeness will hang in the House of Kin Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame. The Sudbury Star quoted Joe in an e-mail, “I moved from Sudbury in 1964, so it was surprising, but a real honour to be included with some fine people who are going into the hall.”

In 1993, Joe lost his wife Christine Walker to cancer. She was just 60 years of age. He met her in 1953 while working in Regina before coming back to Sudbury. Christine was a nurse. Joe and his wife raised three children, Geoffrey, Michael and Linda. Joe retired in 1995 and resides in the Ottawa area, Kanata to be specific.

In January of 2007 Joe attended hospital for a biopsy following the discovery of something suspicious suspected of causing Joe extreme hoarseness, continual coughing and difficulty getting air into his lungs just the month before. A fairly routine procedure was interrupted when Joe stopped breathing on the operating table and the doctors had no choice but to perform a tracheotomy leaving Joe to breathe via a tube inserted in his neck. Meanwhile the biopsy came back positive for esophageal cancer.

On a day in February of 2007, the day Joe describes as, “The day I would speak my final words.”, he attended the hospital once again for a six-hour operation in which he underwent a laryngectomy, the removal of his vocal cords. In addition, his lymph nodes and a golf ball sized tumor were also extracted. Most welcome was the great news that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes.

In the fall of 2009, Joe Spence found himself embattled with a credit card company when he received a promotion in the mail. As a current card holder, Joe was expected to speak up on behalf of himself to the company if he wanted to cancel and avoid a $25 charge. He would have to place a telephone call himself to refuse the offer. Of course, with no voice, this was a problem. The Ottawa Citizen newspaper, in a story, “Negative billing experience”, September 27, 2009, Joe’s son is quoted as describing the frustration and humiliation his father experienced over the way in which Joe was treated, especially for someone who made a living using his voice. Despite Joe’s son’s efforts to intervene the company would not budge. It took a push from the media to eventually right the wrong. In the end the company apologized, saying it should have handled it much better than it did. It also cancelled the card. Legislation has been passed in Ontario to prohibit negative billing, but it has its critics for its laxity. There have been bills at the federal level to cover a broader range and tougher degree, but they died because of an election call.

Today Joe Spence enjoys his own company, describes himself as a “prolific” reader and keeps up with current news, sports and politics. From time to time you will find a column or letter written by Joe in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

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