Beloved Thunder Bay Journalist Lisa Laco Dies at Age 64

1943
CBC Radio
CBC Radio's Lisa Laco interviews the first CBQ 800 Station Manager in Thunder Bay as the station celebrated in September 2013.

Thunder Bay – Beloved wife, mother, sister and broadcaster Lisa Jane Laco (nee Brown) passed away peacefully, wrapped in the arms of her family, on August 20, 2021 at the age of 64 years.

Lisa started her life and career in Newfoundland – her journalistic and broadcast career began as soon as someone would let her near a microphone. She attended broadcast school in Halifax, and from there worked for every broadcasting company in Newfoundland and Labrador, in every position from copywriter to DJ to news reporter and TV anchor. Then her dream career with CBC began. Lisa worked at both the Corner Brook and St. John’s CBC stations before moving to Thunder Bay in the early 90’s. She was soon joined by her son Andrew and quickly fell in love – both with the city, and her husband Brad Laco.
Lisa started as producer of the morning show, later shifting into the host chair, which she occupied until her retirement in 2021. She was a highly regarded journalist, with an empathetic heart and analytical mind. She knew how to laugh at her mistakes – a very important skill for any broadcaster. She was also a mentor and friend to many young journalists passing through Thunder Bay.
Lisa was in the chair for defining moments – such as the September 11th attacks, where, while the news was still breaking, she and her team broke off from national programming to inform listeners of the events happening.
She hosted countless morning-after election specials, spanning the career of a half dozen prime ministers (and reminds everyone to vote) and premiers. Lisa and the amazing CBC Thunder Bay team pioneered the pop-up remote show, hosting live from various locations around the city – Fort William Gardens with the Thunderwolves, Marina Park, a Thunder Bay transit bus, in all the weather the region has to offer. It was always an adventure, and when she finished each show, she would say to her colleagues: “That was the best one yet.”
The morning show consistently topped the ratings, and she conducted over 3000 interviews over her career – including Margaret Atwood, a personal favourite of hers.
Most of her interviews, though, were with people from Thunder Bay and the region – and these she truly loved. She loved laughing with her guests; crying with her guests; and most importantly, listening to her guests. She radiated a warmth both on and off the air, and her listeners felt it – upon retirement, cards poured in from across the region, each one of which she read and was thankful for.
She loved every moment of it, and considered herself truly fortunate to be able to do what she loved.
She loved Thunder Bay, and Thunder Bay loved her. One man in particular, however, a little more than most.
She met her future husband Brad in 1994, they married later that year, and by 1995 their son John was born.
She loved her summers at Dog Lake, and her winters at the hockey rink – and later in life, after the kids gave up on an NHL career, at home – with a book perched nearby, knitting in hand. She was an avid reader, and devoured books – which inspired her to install a free neighbourhood library in front of her house and fill it with books for both young and old.
Lisa devoted herself selflessly to many organizations and charities, raising money for many causes and being master of ceremonies for numerous events.. too many to count.
She was a strong supporter of indigenous people and believed firmly in reconciliation and ensuring that the stories that needed to be told would be told. Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School held a special place in her heart. Hundreds of students from remote First Nations attended the Thunder Bay School over the years to complete their education, some arriving in the city as young as 14. A bursary has been established in Lisa’s name at the school and in lieu of flowers, please consider donating in her memory. Donations can be made to the Lisa Laco Bursary Fund at the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/63859
Lisa will be forever remembered for her sharp mind and uncanny recall, her ability to empathize, her ability to listen, her warmth and her candour. She was a champion of many causes, but one she held near and dear to her heart was mental health, which she publicly and frequently spoke out about to help break the stigma around it. Through her, countless people were able to feel a bit more comfortable in their own skin, and many reached out over the years to tell her of their own struggles. She listened to every single story.
Lisa is survived by her loving husband of 27 years Brad Laco, their son John Laco and her son Andrew Ryan along with dogs Bruin and Hunter.
She is survived by three sisters: Sara (Harald), Murray (Jim), and Andrea (Devin), and two brothers: Kenneth and Robinson (Lynn).
She is also survived by Brads family: Cynthia (Wayne), Shelley (Lara) and Bruce (Kristine).
She was preceded in death by her parents, Mr. William MacDonald Brown and Mrs. Carol Hope Brown (nee Saunders).
A private funeral service will be held on August 28th, 2021 at Redwood Park Church. The service will be broadcast virtually for those unable to attend in person.
Donations in her memory can be made to the Lisa Laco Bursary Fund at the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/63859
The family would like to thank Janna Costa and the Victorian Order of Nurses; Donald Hutchinson, NP, and Linda Roussel of LHIN; Dr. Donald Franchi, and all the health care professionals that assisted in her care; and the ALS Society of Canada for their support over the past several months. Your compassion and care is rivalled only by your professionalism and sense of duty, and we truly can not thank you enough for everything.