Faith, family played significant part in Ted Rogers’ life

Published December 9, 2008

Edward Samuel (Ted) Rogers, who died Dec. 2 at the age of 75, has been hailed as a media mogul, an industrial titan, a visionary, and one of the greatest Canadians of all time. A lesser known fact is that he was also a spiritual man who attended Grace Church on-the-hill, the Anglican church north of downtown Toronto where he was a parishioner since childhood. Family, friends, and dignitaries said their final farewell to Mr. Rogers at a moving service on Tuesday attended by more than a thousand people at the St. James’ Cathedral. Milton Barry, the incumbent of Grace Church on-the-hill and a canon of St. James’ Cathedral, officiated and preached at the service. Terence Finlay, the former diocesan bishop of Toronto and family friend, led the prayers, while Colin Johnson, the diocesan bishop, gave the final blessing. Mr. Rogers “was a very extraordinary mix of business skills, entrepreneur-adventure-like skills, and at the same time, very sentimental, very spiritual,” said Canon Barry. Part of that spirituality could be traced to the “huge impact” that Mr. Rogers’ stepfather, John W. Graham, had on him, said Canon Barry. Mr. Graham was a lay canon in the diocese of Toronto who left a strong record of service to the Anglican Church of Canada. Canon Barry recalled Mr. Rogers saying that ‘he (Mr. Graham) taught me all kinds of new levels of integrity and honesty.” In past media interviews, Mr. Rogers recalled that his stepfather had been a calm and enduring presence in his life, one whose counsel he deeply valued. Mr. Rogers was only five when his father, Edward – hailed in the early 20th century as a “boy genius” for inventing the electrical plug-in radio and other communications devices – died at the age of 38. His mother, Velma Taylor Rogers, later married Mr. Graham.”My parents were brought up as Victorians and those values were inculcated in me. There were three great duties of the citizen – the church, public service and politics,” Mr. Graham said when he retired from his church duties in 1997. He served on the diocese of Toronto’s executive committee and as chair of its pension committee for more than 40 years; he was also a member of General Synod and the National Executive Council from 1952 to 1967. He was one of the founders of the Anglican Foundation.(Mr. Rogers’ ancestors were Quakers from New England who emigrated to Canada in 1801 and settled in Newmarket, Ont.) In 1997, Mr. Rogers donated $2.5 million for a new library named in honour of his stepfather at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College. The John W. Graham Library provides collections and services to support undergraduate studies in arts and science, and graduate studies in the divinity programs of Trinity and Wycliffe colleges. Mr. Rogers established the John W. Graham Fellowships at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1993. Mr. Graham, who was a soldier, respected lawyer, and businessman, died in 1998 in his 86th year. The death of Mr. Graham, who served for many years as chair of the board of Rogers Communications Inc., was “a huge loss to Ted because he himself had a strong opinion about the right way to do things,” said Canon Barry. “To have convictions like that (in the business world), you feel lonely. So when John was alive, he (Ted) didn’t feel that kind of loneliness.” Whenever he saw Mr. Rogers in church, Mr. Barry said he often found himself thinking, “This is a lonely walk for you. Most of us have the capacity to talk freely and openly but when you’re head of so much and you’re a strong philanthropist, all that everybody wants of you is what they can get out of you.” Mr. Barry said there were some church people who would ask him to set up a meeting with Mr. Rogers “for every odd little thing,” and he always turned them down. “I will not do that. I wouldn’t do it to any other parishioner,” he said. Mr. Rogers’ favourite prayer was The Serenity Prayer and mourners at his funeral service were reminded of that when his sister, Anne, recited it. It was the prayer that his parents had taught him as a young child, and it gained resonance later, when his mother battled alcoholism. That prayer is significant to those in Alcoholics Anonymous, said Mr. Barry. “I think part of it (Mr. Rogers’s spirituality) is that he was always very affected by the fact that his mother had been an alcoholic, and he was really, deeply impressed by the effect of the emergence of Alcoholics Anonymous, which emerged in his mother’s time in a strong way.” Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous “has very deep spiritual roots – the whole 12-step program and acknowledgement of a power higher than yourself,” said Canon Barry. Although he was never involved in church governance, Mr. Rogers was a strong contributor of Grace Church on-the-hill and the Bishop’s Company, which supports bishops of the diocese of Toronto with discretionary funding. Whenever he and his wife, Loretta, vacationed in their winter home in Nassau, they frequented St. Christopher’s Anglican Church. Mr. Rogers has also contributed to countless other charities in Canada and the United States. Canon Barry said that he is “quite sad” that he won’t be seeing Mr. Rogers in his church anymore. He recalled that Mr. Rogers had a great sense of humour. “One of the things I knew, and a lot of business people knew, is that his feet would kill him every now and then and so he’d have people take off their shoes. I’ve done that in his office,” said Mr. Barry. “He would say, ‘I can’t take off my shoes if you don’t, too. That’s a little something I don’t think he’ll mind me saying.” Mr. Rogers’ motto was “The best is yet to come,” said Canon Barry. “He said it all the time to his children, to his family, to his employees.” That belief extended beyond his business life. “That was his feeling in terms of his faith. ‘This isn’t all there is to it, the best is yet to come.'”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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