One of the first editors of The Interim is being remembered as a man who could have a tough exterior at times, but underneath it all, had a kind heart and did much to help others, especially the unborn.
Carl Scharfe died at the age of 57 on Jan. 25, after a four-month battle with cancer. He had been employed with Campaign Life Coalition for some 20 years, doing much of its graphic artwork, and playing an instrumental role in the startup of The Interim and its progression into the computer age of publishing.
“He wasn’t always the easiest person in the world to get along with, but a lot of Carl’s noise was on the surface and deep down, he was a really, really kind, nice guy,” recalled Sabina McLuhan, another early Interim editor who worked closely with Scharfe in the initial years of the paper.
“I had known Carl for a really long time,” she added. “I knew him before our pro-life work. He was a dear friend of mine … My kids grew up with him, and they all miss him very much. They loved him greatly.”
Scharfe had been invited to assist in graphic work and layout for the then fledgling Interim, which began publication in March 1983. McLuhan credited Scharfe with computerizing the production of The Interim, and moving the paper away from its outdated cut-and-paste methodology.
“When Carl was around, the first computers were brought in. He was the one who put the paper on computer and brought us into that new way of doing newspapers. Without Carl having done that, I think The Interim would still be cutting and pasting.”
She said Scharfe also brought his considerable artistic talents to The Interim, and excelled in the areas of graphics and layout. “He helped the newspaper go from being a small, almost photocopied sheet, into much more of a professional-looking newspaper. That was very important, because the things we had to say were important. Carl made them look good, so that in a professional sense, it looked proper.”
Friend Wayne Constantineau remembered Scharfe as a man who left his mark in helping others, and staked out a path as a theorist and intellectual. Scharfe had studied under the great media theorist Marshall McLuhan at the University of Toronto’s Innis College, and both Scharfe and Constantineau spent many subsequent years pondering McLuhan’s work and pursuing it to further realms – to the point where they both could have been considered “McLuhanatics.”
Scharfe served as editor of Innis College’s newspaper, The Herald, in 1978, when he produced a special issue focusing on topics including McLuhan, cloning, and life issues.
Their friendship deepened about five years ago, after Constantineau came up with “an integral way of looking at all things.” His methodology involved looking at the media in terms of how they imitate certain parts of the body.
“Carl caught onto it right away,” said Constantineau. “We started to apply this way of looking at things to everything. We did a lot of work in the whole area of rhetoric …. That led us into not only storytelling, but different types of drama, as they relate to both text and film.”
During the last year of his life, Scharfe was involved in a study of how this line of thinking could be applied to amino acids or DNA. “I don’t know exactly how far he had gone with the whole thing – his sickness got in the way,” said Constantineau. “There’s a whole pile of stuff sitting in his computer along this vein. I’m not sure where he had gone with the whole thing … It never got a chance to be published.”
Scharfe’s wit, cleverness and curious sense of humour were typified by his hilarious, three-page work, “A History of the World,” produced several years ago. In it, he utilized word plays, puns and malapropisms to trace the story of civilization as it might have happened.
“The inhabitants of ancient Egypt were mummies,” he wrote. “They lived in the Sarah Dessart and travelled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants had to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation.”
Later, “The Romans conquered the Geeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlics in their hair. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul.”
Closer to the present day, “Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel. Handel was half-German, half-Italian and half English. He was very large. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Beetoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beetoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.”
Over the years, Scharfe also dabbled in painting and music. In earlier times, he had actually toured Europe as part of a band. Later, as a convert to Catholicism, Scharfe found his faith deepening as a result of his pro-life work.
In 2000, Scharfe scaled back his work to do contract jobs for CLC, with a goal of moving to California and becoming a screenwriter there. He also became a strong advocate of the pro-life movement getting more involved in health care as a way of winning the abortion battle.
At a reception following his funeral at Holy Family Church in Toronto, tributes to Scharfe from friends and co-workers flowed freely.
“Carl was an amazing contributor – a genius, I guess,” said Eve Malone, an original employee of Campaign Life Coalition. She added that Scharfe was “miles ahead of everyone” in learning about what was, in the early 1980s, the up-and-coming technology of computers. “He had an amazing mind. A lot of people didn’t appreciate him enough.”
CLC employee Bill Mullally said Scharfe played a significant role in getting the organization’s new offices on Bond Street in Toronto ready, after a move from previous facilities on Dundas Street. He also recalled how Scharfe used to “jam” musically with the legendary “Rompin’ Ronnie” Hawkins.
“Carl went to daily Mass and was a man of habit,” said Mullally. “You always knew where he’d sit.”
Nadia Gahagnon, another CLC employee, used to be a smoker, and recalled with a laugh how much Scharfe hated cigarettes and smoking – and always made a big deal of anyone who lit up near him. “We’d fight about something, but when it was finished, it was finished,” she said. “He was a good heart, a soft heart, a sweet bear.”
Interim Queen’s Park columnist Frank Kennedy praised Scharfe for his work on a brochure equating the struggle against abortion with Wilberforce’s famous battle against slavery.
Troy Scotchburn remembered how Scharfe’s office at CLC was a quasi- sanctuary for young people, a place where they could spend lots of time discussing matters of import. “We were very consoled by his presence,” he said, adding with a chuckle that Scharfe’s office was always “very dark, like a confessional.”
Prominent Toronto pro-life activist Dan McCash recalled major battles that erupted with Scharfe over the question of whether PC or Macintosh computers were superior, when CLC was first deciding how to equip its offices with the new devices. “He was a Macintosh guy,” said McCash, adding that although the two were at loggerheads at first, their relationship developed into a friendly one based on a strong faith connection.
CLC volunteer Judy Johnson had recollections of Scharfe crawling on his hands and knees during Operation Rescue activities at Toronto abortuaries during the 1980s. She also expressed gratitude for his compliments on her cooking abilities over the years.
CLC Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas noted Scharfe’s sense of determination and said that condolences on his passing had come in from pro-life supporters across Canada.
CLC national president Jim Hughes also recalled how Scharfe always had a point of view, but also kept an open mind. He paid tribute to Scharfe’s “tremendous abilities” to listen to young people, and observed how often they were in his office.
“Carl made a tremendous impact on everyone he met,” said Hughes. “He was a powerful, but gentle, man. He was also an outdoorsman, a great thinker, a religious man and a good friend.”
Hughes spoke for everyone when he turned to Scharfe’s son Courtney and said that the pro-life movement and his friends will miss Scharfe every bit as much as his family.
Scharfe is also survived by his other children, Jorda and Briar, and their mother Dianne, as well as his grandchildren, Amanda and Brook. The family requested that donations be made to Campaign Life Coalition in his memory.