The man could write. Those four simple are of the best accolades one writer can give to another, especially when used sparingly and appropriately. So, let me be clear, Korky Koroluk – the man could write and the Daily Commercial News (DCN), the Journal of Commerce (JOC) and the construction industry were better because of it.
It is with humility and extreme reverence that I write this Construction Corner column celebrating and remembering Korky Koroluk, the columnist who filled this space dutifully every Friday for decades for the DCN. Korky passed away Tuesday, May 1 and it is not just the columnist I honour, here in this space, his space, I honour a man I considered a mentor and friend.
For those of you who read his column regularly, week in, week out, you received a treat, the culmination of hours of research, interviews and the threading together of prose by a true professional.
Korky’s columns explored new technologies, trends, infrastructure, green building, climate change…basically, if it was a leading edge development impacting construction, Korky was on it and all over it.
Every Christmas he would file his holiday column and it was never about construction but about the holidays or Prairie history, giving you a glimpse into his other interests and experiences. Born and raised in the Prairies, the images Korky could paint of his childhood upbringing were rich.
The chapters in Korky’s life were all interesting ones he revelled in: husband, father, a Prairie childhood, an armed forces pilot, reporter for the Canadian Press, writer and editor for the DCN, a prolific freelance writing career as a reporter and columnist.
The DCN team and I always understood the importance of Korky and his link to our storied paper’s past. Here was a man who did what we do now in the DCN newsroom. Also, he was not just a link to our past but a bridge to our current and future work thanks to his excellent writing on current construction technology. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to speak, compare notes and bounce ideas off of someone who helped build the foundation you are currently working from.
Korky took pride in his craft and his curiosity never waned. Just two weeks ago we discussed a series of stories about the importance of data privacy and governance for construction firms. In fact, his first piece in this series and his last byline in our papers, explored construction project data protection.
What turned out to be his last Construction Corner column explored the concept that building sustainably may no longer be the way to go for cities. Building with a focus on resilience and adaptation might be the best approach in coping with climate change or, as Korky said, “When it comes to dealing with Mother Nature, business as usual is not an option.”
Korky was never preachy about his views on climate change and building better infrastructure and homes. He always presented the latest he learned, in the best way possible, in order to better inform readers.
His columns are among the most popular pieces of content on our websites and they generate by far the most feedback. At times, readers would reach out to me, asking to speak to Korky in order to learn more about what he wrote and he was always willing to help. I too have been lucky enough to benefit from Korky’s willingness to help, to listen and offer a kind word.
You see, his columns would come week after week but it was the conversations about life and family we would have that I will cherish the most. When my father passed away two years ago Korky was an amazingly kind ear and shoulder to lean on. His checking in on me to see how my mother and I were was telling of the type of man Korky was.
We would talk about fatherhood too and he was always interested to know how I was finding my new journey as a dad. I was lucky enough to have lunch with Korky two years ago while in Ottawa with my family in tow — an especially poignant memory I recall now, my young son sitting on a restaurant table facing Korky as he held him steady. He joked it had been so long since he last held a child so small that one forgets “what you are supposed to do.”
When I celebrated my 10-year DCN anniversary last year Korky sent me his congratulations on the milestone. In his note he mentioned he would tell his beloved wife Ardyce something from our weekly conversations, whether it was about family or business. Korky said it was natural on such a work anniversary to “think mostly about, well, the job. But, I’m more inclined to think about family.”
“Family,” he said. “Companies come and go, sometimes owning the DCN/JOC for a while as they pass through, but the family is constant. That’s where the true values are nurtured.”
As I sit here writing this, at times the cursor blinking for quite a while, beckoning me to write the right thing to convey to you the impact Korky had on the DCN, our team and the industry, I think of his deep voice and how reassuring and authoritative it could be. I think of the thousands of people Korky interviewed in his lifetime and how that voice and his professionalism earned the trust of so many worldwide. Then, his skills, his finely honed writing craft, would reassure those who trusted in him that their investment of time and conversation was worth it.
I’ll leave you all with one of my favourite Christmas tales of Korky’s he shared in a 2012 holiday season column entitled, ‘Out with the bricks and in with the jam.’In this column Korky wrote about the wild strawberry jam his family used to make.
“It was a small pleasure in a time when pleasures were usually small – like a little jar of wild strawberry jam,” he said.
Korky described how hard it was to track down wild strawberries and to fight the temptation “to pop the berries in your mouth” when you did finally find them. His mother made eight small jars one year, each sealed with paraffin wax and stored in the cellar.
Come Christmas morning, his mother made a batch of baking powder biscuits and his father brought up one of the jars from the cellar. Their Christmas breakfast was just that, hot biscuits topped with homemade butter and wild strawberry jam.
“The taste was unforgettable,” Korky wrote. “Few people ever had such a treat on Christmas morning. And for me, Christmas Day will always taste like wild strawberry jam.”
Wherever you are Korky, I hope each day is filled with all the wild strawberry jam you want — you deserve it.
Korky Koroluk – the man could write.