Donnelly Rhodes, 80, on Jan. 8, of cancer. Born in Winnipeg, Rhodes joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as an airman-mechanic, before starting his career as an actor. He studied at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada. He made his professional stage debut at Stratford as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire before becoming a contract player for Universal in the U.S. where he appeared on Bonanza, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Cheers, Golden Girls, and the Young and the Restless, as well as ABC spoof Soap. Rhodes was best known to Canadian audiences for roles on Sidestreet, Street Legal, Battlestar Galactica and as Grant “Doc” Roberts in Danger Bay. He earned a Gemini award for playing detective Leo Shannon in Da Vinci’s Inquest in 2002 and a Gemini Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. Rhodes was also recognized by the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame with a star on Vancouver’s Granville Street Star Walk.
Vern Traill, 92, on Jan. 3, in Moose Jaw. Traill, who earned the nickname “The Cowboy,” started his career with CHAB Moose Jaw, moving to Edmonton in 1980 to take on general manager duties at CHED. He returned to Moose Jaw to manage CHAB in 1988. For a number of years, Traill also served as chairman of the Radio Bureau of Canada. Notorious for his love of good fun, he leaves a legacy of stories from filling the swimming pool at Moose Jaw’s Heritage Inn with lake water and trout for a charity fishing derby, to the time he moved the vacationing CHAB sales manager’s home from its foundation after he complained about the area he lived in. Read more on Edmonton Sun contributor Cam Tait’s blog here.
Alan Bleviss, 76, on Dec. 30 after a long battle with lung cancer. Edmonton-born Bleviss took theatrical training at the University of Alberta drama school and the National Theatre School of Canada, before starting an unexpected career as a voiceover artist when his agent sent him to an audition for a Canada Dry commercial. That led to more TV spots and trailers for Hollywood movies like Scarface, Dirty Dancing and Flashdance. He eventually became the voice of Enterprise Rental Cars, AT&T, American Express Gold and the Democratic Party during the Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Michael Dukakis campaigns. His success in the U.S. led him to move to New York City in 1976. In 1992, Bleviss developed chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which left him with partial paralysis and damage to his voice. Therapy eventually allowed him to work again. Bleviss earned six Clio awards during his career and was honoured by the Cannes Film Festival in 1985. He funded the Bleviss Laboratory Theatre at the University of Alberta and the Bleviss Family Library at the National Theatre School of Canada, where he also sat on the board of directors.
Murray Johns, 63, on Jan. 4, following a lengthy illness. Johns’ radio career spanned 30 years with among his senior positions: retail sales manager at CFRB-AM Toronto, general sales manager at Q107 (CILQ-FM) and director of sales for Corus Radio Toronto.
Paola Melania Italia Simonetto, 56, on Dec. 25, of pancreatic cancer. Simonetto was head of development and talent recruitment for Musiqueplus and MusiMax from 1998 to 2004 and served as senior producer between 1998 and 2001, championing the careers of many Quebec musicians along the way, including her partner – musician and producer Aldo Nova. In 2015, she joined Montreal firm CMJ Productions II where she was part of a development team creating HD documentaries, moving on to boutique marketing and firm LGG Inc. In 2016, Simonetto launched online boutique Femme Fatale Glamour, focused on retro Hollywood fashion. She was developing another site geared toward a younger market when she died.