Cle Newhook, former NDP leader, author and theologian died Friday at age 74 after a short bout with cancer.
Newhook was an activist and advocate who worked for many causes over the years. He was an ordained Anglican minister who became leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party in 1989 after defeating MHA Gene Long in a close race. He led the party until 1992.
“This is a great loss,” said NDP leader Lorraine Michael. “It was a shock and I’m very saddened.”
Outside of his political career, Newhook was a co-ordinator of student services at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the university’s chaplain.
Michael said he had a reputation as a caring chaplain when he was at Memorial University.
“He had a great reputation as a caring person, but also political, very political at the same time – wanting systems to work for people.”
He served as the director of the Ocean Ranger Families Foundation, a non-profit foundation established after the 1982 oilrig disaster during which 84 people were lost at sea, and that’s how Michael first met him. Michael was co-chair of the foundation at the time, when they hired Newhook to be the co-ordinator and fundraiser.
“He was just back from the U.K. then, he and Debbie, his wife. (They) … came back with great credentials having worked on fundraising with Princess Diana,” said Michael. “He certainly cared about what the families were going through and was really there for them.”
Michael said Newhook was always supportive of the party in a quiet way, “not looking for any attention,” in the years since he was leader.
“Even just about four weeks ago, he got in touch with me to say, ‘Lorraine, I know this person, this person might be a good candidate.’ That’s what he was like — he was there in the background, and he was constantly giving me tips about somebody who might be a good candidate, offering to set me up with that person when I was leader, and so caring about the party.
“He really believed in the party, he was a true social democrat, really believed in social justice and worked for that, and was a very caring person.”
Newhook is also remembered fondly by the arts community.
“He was at one time a fundraiser for the LSPU Hall early in his career,” said actor Rick Boland. “He’s done a lot of work with many charities and arts organizations.”
Boland said that what most people remember about Newhook was his character.
“He was always very much a gentleman,” he said. “He’d never say a word against anybody,” Boland said, joking, “except if they were running against him or the party.”
Newhook also worked with and served as president of the Newfoundland Pony Society, lobbying to bring 20 Newfoundland ponies that had been shipped to British Columbia back home in 2014 after he discovered they were not in a good situation.
More recently, Newhook was a marketing consultant and the director of Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador.
— With files from Juanita Mercer and Deb Squires