Former Amherst reporter traced to Ontario
Gordon Fenny, as he appeared with a column he wrote on www.cottagecountrynow.ca earlier this year.
(Continued from last week. Part 1 introduced readers to Gordon Fenny, a good-natured reporter who worked for the Amherst Daily News for six weeks in 1981 before mysteriously disappearing with Pam Harrison's car, not to be seen here again.)
AMHERST - Doug Harkness came into work Monday morning to not only find the weekend assignments for the Amherst Daily News unfinished, but to also to find a desk cleaned out, and no sign of the reporter anywhere.
Police eventually searched the apartment of Gordon Fenny, where they found little other than a box containing belongings of Pam Harrison that were in the trunk of her car, such as her Bible. Harrison began to realize that he was not going to bring her car back.
"I was in disbelief," she said. "I had called hospitals between Halifax and Amherst and asked if there had been any accidents... I really wanted it not to be true."
While Fenny was never tracked down, Harrison did receive a call about six months later about her Honda Civic, which had been involved in a hit-and-run accident near the Canada-U.S. border in the Windsor, Ont. area. Harrison still recalls her reaction at the time of hearing that news.
"I said that I had a feeling that car had seen a better time than I could have showed it," she said, with a laugh.
It turned out that Harrison was not the only victim of "The Fenny Sting," as Harkness labeled the incident. Further digging by the editor revealed an alleged trail of questionable activity behind the "erstwhile reporter." Motel bills were left unpaid, local stores were left with bad cheques, and Jack Bristol was out $20 that he had loaned Fenny at the racetrack.
The trail traced back to Ontario, where there was an outstanding warrant for Fenny in relation to a stolen car, not to mention a couple of girlfriends who had apparently loaned him money.
"He'll turn up some day, somewhere, and if there's enough of him, we'll bring him back," said Amherst police chief Hans Plomp, at the time.
But he never turned up, and the trail grew cold fast. Until now.
There was no Google in 1981.
Intrigued by the story when Harkness told me, I immediately had the idea of tracking Fenny down. The world is a much smaller place than it was 30 years ago, and I knew it would be easier to find this guy today to hear his side of the story then it was then.
Admittedly, I also had a certain amount of curiosity about what happened to Fenny. Say what you will about journalists, but there are not many of us who are covering a church bazaar one day, and being sought by the law the next.
The only problem when I heard the story from Harkness was that he couldn't remember Fenny's name, or the date of when this took place. I decided to shelve the idea.
It was a few years later that I came across the story in black and white, while working on the "30 Years Ago" history feature for the Citizen-Record. Right there on the front page of the Oct. 31, 1981 Citizen was the story as documented by Harkness. And the name - Gordon K. Fenny.
Off to Google I ran, and hit paydirt. There wasn't a lot, but quickly popping up were three columns written earlier this year by a Gordon Fenny for an Ontario newspaper, the Huntsville Forester.
Perhaps more interestingly, there was a Gordon Fenny identified as the senior editor in a 1973 issue of The Advance, "One of Canada's Great Inmate Publications," published by and for the inmates of Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ont.
Another Google find shows a Gordon Fenny on the staff of the Durham College Chronicle in 1997.
Fortunately, one of the Forester columns even had a photo of the writer.
"It looks like him," said operations manager Greg Landry, who worked with Fenny during his brief but memorable time with the Amherst Daily News.
"I'm certain that's the same guy," said Harrison.
Just like that, I had found him, but I needed more.
There was no contact information with his columns, so I contacted Forester news editor Tamara de la Vega. She said Fenny hadn't written anything for them for some time and had recently left the community, but she remembered him, and was shocked when told of his alleged past.
"He got the job done," said de la Vega. "He was a nice, grandfatherly type of person. At least, that was the impression. He did some volunteer work here in the community... he tried to raise some funds for the animal shelter, I think."
Inquiries with the animal shelter in Huntsville turned up no clues about Fenny or his whereabouts.
"He seemed like a nice guy and wanted to do some work," said de la Vega, who described him as persistent and somewhat aggressive, and not above making the occasional Viagra joke. "He was definitely a character."
Messages sent to Fenny's email address have gone unanswered, and there is no phone listing for a Gordon Fenny anywhere in Canada. It appears he has vanished again.
Three decades after the unfortunate loan of her car, Harrison said she has long since forgiven him for his actions, and always appreciated that he had taken her belongings out of the car and left them behind. Although she admits the experience made her more wary, she said she will still loan her car if a friend is in need.
"He stole my car, so he was a thief," she said. "But if he had stolen my faith in humanity, he would have been a real thief."
(Those with information about Gordon Fenny are encouraged to contact Andrew Wagstaff at firstname.lastname@example.org)