Earlier this month, beloved CHOM morning radio host and Montreal native Terry DiMonte announced his retirement from a career that spanned over four decades. He has been on radio stations across the country and is one of Canada’s most respected on-air personalities. Recently, on Twitter, he posted a picture of himself from decades ago wearing a sweater featuring the logo of the Spartans of Chateauguay Valley Regional High School. This sparked a lot of interest in just what his connection to the Valley was.
“I started a show in 1984 and in 85/86 my cohost was Peppermint Patti. This was before the internet, so the way you got your radio show known was you went to as many places as you possibly could. Patti and I never turned down anything. A friend of mine used to joke that we would go to the opening of an envelope,” explains DiMonte, reminiscing about the earliest days of his career. He continues: “The gang at CVR had asked us to host their winter carnival there because we had a lot of listeners who listened on the bus to CVR. There was also a bar (that I cannot remember the name of) that we used to go out to in Huntingdon. Patti had friends at this bar.”
During this time, he was also a referee for high school hockey, and spent a lot of his time refereeing for CVR and Billings: another Valley connection.
DiMonte explains how the sweater story began: “The year we went to CVR to host the carnival, they gave us those hoodies. I was hosting a children’s television show at that time called Switchback on CBC Television, which was shot in Ottawa and went through Quebec and Ontario. I wore that hoodie on TV one weekend, and everybody went nuts.” This was the first time the sweater caused community excitement. DiMonte goes on to say, “And again, you have to remember this was pre-internet so there was only radio and television, so it was a big deal.”
In those days, besides radio and television, there were also more community newspapers. DiMonte takes a moment to emphasize the importance of such local media: “It’s massively important. When I was a kid, I delivered a paper called the North Shore News, which was a paper on the West Island. When I lived on the West Island, I made sure I subscribed to what was called the News and Chronicle. Those local dailies disappeared years ago, and I think that the communities are poorer for it.” He also mentions that the English-speaking community needs to make sure they don’t lose their outlets. “I think this is especially true in the English media landscape. The Gazette gets thinner and thinner every week and the English community gets smaller and smaller every year and it’s important especially in local communities that papers like The Gleaner stay vibrant and thrive.”
He continues by saying that local news is at the heart of each community: “I’ve always been a big believer that it should be a reflection of the community we live in. Local papers are where you find out about things that make the community function and breathe and survive.” With the current rate that any news can travel, DiMonte says it’s important for people to tell their stories. “In the time of the internet where people can make up stories and put them on Facebook, [local papers provide] an even more important place for people who are living in the community and reporting stories of the community; especially given the context of English in Quebec, I think it’s massively important.”
Catching up on sleep
When asked about the legacy he is leaving behind, DiMonte admits that it is up to others to decide and he can’t say what it’ll look like. In terms of what he hopes, he says, “I’d like to think at night when I turn the light off that I conducted myself in an appropriate and responsible fashion, and that I used that chair responsibly. I tried to get involved with local issues and with as many charitable causes as I could. I tried to be the voice of people who were having trouble getting heard.”
What happens next for DiMonte? Though he has loved his gig, getting up in the middle of the night for so long has been a challenge. He says, “I’m going to be doing a lot of sleeping, a lot of reflecting, and then we’ll see.” Once he catches up on years of 3:30 a.m. wake-up calls, who knows? “June, July and August I’m going to spend a lot of time looking out the window and reading and taking it easy. We’ll see what happens come the fall. I may look into podcasting; some people are encouraging me to write a book. I have a lot of decisions to make, but the first thing I want to do is sleep.”
It can be very exciting when the Valley is represented in unexpected ways, especially by someone as impressive and respected as DiMonte. His contributions to English radio in Quebec are innumerable and he will be greatly missed when he retires. He takes a moment to emphasize that he is “so grateful to everyone for the support, and so tickled by the interest in my hoodie.”