Monday, December 11, 2023

John Yardley-Jones (1930-2023)

From The Edmonton Journal.

John, or Yardley as he was known to many, was an editorial cartoonist, watercolourist, marathon runner, cross-country skier, honorary mayor of New Sarepta, and larger-than-life character. 

John Yardley-Jones was born on May 2, 1930 in Liverpool and was evacuated to North Wales as a boy during WWII. 

As a young man, he trained as a draughtsman and apprenticed as a house painter. 

He sold his first cartoon at age 14 to The Liverpool Echo

In 1957 he emigrated to Canada with his wife Mary. 

Settling first in Edmonton, he sold freelance cartoons while working as a house painter. 

His big break came in 1962 when the Edmonton Journal hired him as their first editorial cartoonist. 

In 1963 reacting to John F. Kennedy's pronouncement that "our American soldiers should be able to walk 50 miles in less than 20 hours," Yardley sparked a media stunt walking the 50 miles from New Sarepta to Edmonton in 16.5 hours.

Yardley's career as an editorial cartoonist spanned decades as well as major Canadian newspapers. 

In 1968 he and Mary and their growing family moved across the country to Toronto where he worked for the Toronto Telegram, winning a National Newspaper Award in 1971. 

Cartoon by John Yardley-Jones, the Telegram, October 17, 1970.

After the Telegram folded, he worked at the Toronto Sun, then in 1973 moved to the Montreal Star until it ceased publishing on September 25, 1979.

He then returned to Edmonton in 1981 working for the Edmonton Sun, and back to the Edmonton Journal in 1984 until retiring in 1993. 

Syndicated across Canada, he famously hid a black cat in all his works. 

A large collection of his cartoons was acquired by the National Archives of Canada and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. 

Inspiring generations of cartoonists, he taught "Cartooning with Yardley Jones," an instructional series on ACCESS Network, the Alberta educational television channel. 

This series was later broadcast on TV Ontario.

After retiring from newspapers, he started a second career as a watercolourist capturing Canadian landscapes, Edmonton street scenes, and annual paintings for the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival. 

He and his wife Mary had a popular booth selling cards and prints at the Strathcona Farmer's Market.

Yardley was also an avid athlete. 

As a young man he was billed the Uncrowned Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Wales. 

Always fit, he ran his first marathon at age 52 and soon became a regular at road races in Edmonton as well as marathons and ultramarathons across Canada and beyond. 

Through these races he and his good friend and journalist Nick Lees raised considerable funds for numerous charities including Ronald McDonald House and the Alberta Lung Association. 

One year they ran the entire Jasper to Banff race route in one week (a marathon a day) to raise funds for a school library in inner-city Edmonton. 

And when it was too cold to run in the river valley, Yardley loved cross-country skiing, especially the Birkie's hard-core 55km route with the 5.5 kg pack on his back. 

He completed the race in more consecutive years than most but was equally proud of being the very last skier across the finish line. 

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