Former Rogers Media CEO Gary Miles passed away last Tuesday in Toronto with his loving family by his side, but his life and his legend will live on. If you want to read about Gary’s legendary radio career in Canada, then click here. Instead, I’m here to tell you about his life and why he matters so much to me.
I met Gary when I was 30 and he was 52. For the next 26 years, he was the closest thing I had to a father as an adult. Despite our age gap, we became fast friends. At our first meeting, which was in Denver where I took him to a wild game restaurant with dead animals all over the walls only to find out he was vegetarian, he said “our next meeting will be on the ski hill.” He wasn’t kidding. The next winter, he was at my house to meet my wife, two daughters and my one month old son on our way to the slopes. I think he fell in love with me (and Susan) then. He said anyone who could get away with leaving his wife and three kids under 5 to go skiing with him was pretty cool. Every year since then, Gary and I would meet at a chosen ski resort, and we would ski like crazy together. I was amazed at his pure physical stamina to follow me down double black extreme bump runs, through the trees, and to where most would say, “No thanks.” Eventually, we were joined every year by our beautiful wives Taanta and Susan, and then the tradition was joined annually by their sons Galen and Vikram along his wife Julie, then most recently by his grandchild Jackson. I imagine we would have been joined by his oldest son Gary had he not been living on the other side of the globe. We haven’t yet met Vik and Julie’s new son and Gary’s latest grandchild, appropriately named “Vail,” which is no coincidence because that is where we spent the last 10 years or so with our families skiing together. All my kids are grown now and know Gary and Taanta, and they know how much they both mean to Susan and me.
I have too many stories about Gary to tell in a blog. Gary and I both grew up in the country poor as dirt and had to find our way “out,” and I will always find inspiration in him. He was a musician, and raised his share of hell in his early days. He was a major foody, snubbing his nose at inferior restaurants and going back to the great ones every year. He was a world traveler with Taanta, who kindly put up with his shenanigans. While I was sleeping, he was a workaholic who always had 6 am calls with his managers before we’d hit the slopes. He was both open-minded and stubborn as hell. I pitied the fools who got on his bad side.
Gary didn’t pull punches. He was outspoken and opinionated. He was the blunt force of life I needed to keep me straight in so many ways. He was quick to call bullshit, but also quick to say, “Great job.” He could kiss you and slap you at the same time like no one else. I would hang on a compliment from Gary for years, because it meant so much to me. He challenged me to be a better person and father, and I tried very hard to please him. Even in our last conversation about death, he was stronger than me as I balled away and he consoled me.
On Monday night, in the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up and wondered where I had put the Gary Miles bobble head that I once had displayed. On Tuesday morning, it took a while, but I found it. I put Gary back on my desk by my home office window that looks out at the treed mountain side where we live, and in the Rocky Mountains that he loved so much. After I left town, I learned that Gary had died on Tuesday in Toronto. Even on the day his body left the earth, his soul moved me. I love you, Gary, and I always will.