Honderich, Beland Hugh (1918–2005)

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Beland H. "Bee" Honderich: editor and publisher of the Toronto Star and philanthropist; born 25 November 1918 on a farm near Baden, Ontario, Canada, the third child of John W. Honderich (20 February 1883-12 September 1954) and Rae Armstrong (11 February 1888-3 December 1951). He had three brothers and two sisters. Beland was married three times, first to Florence Wilkinson (1918–2010), with whom he had three children: John (1946- ), Mary (1948- ) and David (1955- ). After the Honderichs divorced in 1964, he married Agnes King (1919–1999). On 1 January 2000 he married Rina Whelan of Vancouver, the city where he lived until his death on 8 December 2005 of complications following a stroke. 

The Honderich forebears, with Amish roots in South Germany, migrated via the United States to Wilmot Township’s forest in Ontario. Beland's great-grandfather, John G. Honderich, (22 December 1825-20 February 1907) born to the immigrant couple, Christian Honderich and Margaret Gingerich, is said to have been the first white child born in the township. Several generations of Honderichs lived on the Wilmot farm but when Beland's mother was appointed village telephone operator in Baden his family moved there. The phone exchange was housed in the train station, which served as a home, complete with an outdoor privy and a hand pump for water in the kitchen, for the operator's family.

The Honderichs first attended Geiger (now Wilmot) Mennonite Church, but joined the Hostetler Reformed Mennonite Church near New Hamburg, a stricter and more exclusive faith tradition. John G. Honderich was ordained as a minister in the Reformed Mennonite Church in 1865. Abram Honderich (17 April 1873–20 March 1961), Beland's uncle, was also minister there. Beland's father, John, and other family members were excommunicated because they attended a service in an Amish church. They were "shunned," meaning that other Reformed Mennonites were forbidden to eat with them or to shake their hands. Apparently Beland, a young person at the time of the excommunication according to his brother Ted, was never a member of the Reformed Mennonite Church. His family's experience may have influenced Beland's strong views on religious freedom and possibly helped shape him as a fiercely private, almost reclusive, man whose principal ethic was work. 

As a child, Beland gathered coal along the railway tracks to heat the family's home and he worked around the Canadian National Railway station for 40 cents a day. He struggled in high school, dropped out in grade 10, then worked as a farmhand. John, who was hard of hearing, took his son along to political rallies to take notes, which taught Beland to write quickly and accurately. He became the Baden correspondent for the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and at 17 was hired as a cub reporter. 

In 1943, the Toronto Star needed to replace staff gone to serve in World War II. Beland, having been rejected by the Royal Canadian Air Force due to poor eyesight and hearing, applied for and got a job as a reporter. In 1948, Honderich and 12 other Star employees chartered the first Canadian local of the American Newspaper Guild. He was president of the Guild for three years. By 1955 Beland was editor-in-chief of the Star and within a few years he and several partners owned the paper. In 1966 he began 22 years as publisher and later was chairman of the paper's parent company, Torstar Corp, until he retired in 1995. Under Honderich's leadership, Torstar became a more than $1 billion enterprise and the coal-collecting child from Baden a millionaire.

Remembering his own early poverty and lack of education, Beland never forgot the small person's struggles in life. He became a philanthropist whose donated scholarships and awards which turned life around for innumerable worthy but disadvantaged students, giving them hope.

Honderich also received awards: honorary doctorates from York University (1976), Wilfrid Laurier University (1977) and Carleton University (1989); and the Order of Canada (1986). He was elected head of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation (Joseph E. Atkinson was founder of the Star) and to York University's Founders Society (2000) for helping establish York's Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies. What Beland treasured most, however, was his election to the News Hall of Fame by journalists from across Canada (1986).

Some people experienced Beland Honderich as gruff, a micro-manager, a curmudgeon. He demanded excellence, accuracy and fairness. He was "the muscle and bone" of the Star, transforming it from a publication that focused on crime sensationalism into an influential newspaper that covered arts and news beyond Toronto and gained the largest circulation in Canada.


Austen, Ian. "Beland Honderich, Publisher Who Transformed the Toronto Star, Dies at 86." New York Times (10 November, 2005).

The Descendants of Christian Honderich (1788-1868) and Margaret Gingerich (1798-1862). Prepared for the Honderich Reunion, June 22, 1991. 21p.

Fulford, Robert. "Philosopher Ted Honderich tells his story." The National Post (10 April, 2001).

Gerard, Warren. "Beland Honderich, Obituary." Toronto Star (9 November, 2005).

Honderich, Abram (1876-1961) collection, Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Honderich, Anne. Interview by Ferne Burkhardt. Petersburg, Ontario (February 2011).

"John W. Honderich dies, funeral on Wednesday." Toronto Daily Star (13 September 1954): 5.

Pieri, Michael. "The Keeper of the Atkinson Flame." Toronto Star (9 November, 2005). 

Wettlaufer Honderich, Shirley. Interview by Ferne Burkhardt. Petersburg, Ontario (February 2011). 

Yost, Elwy, Poem for a Honderich family reunion (1991).

Author(s) Ferne Burkhardt
Date Published July 2011

Cite This Article

MLA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. "Honderich, Beland Hugh (1918–2005)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2011. Web. 29 Jun 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Honderich,_Beland_Hugh_(1918%E2%80%932005)&oldid=134538.

APA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. (July 2011). Honderich, Beland Hugh (1918–2005). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 June 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Honderich,_Beland_Hugh_(1918%E2%80%932005)&oldid=134538.

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