Joanne and Julien met at the scene of a bank robbery, just after the police had shot and killed the culprit. It was 1988, and “there were a lot of bank robberies that year,” Joanne says. Montreal, continues Julien, “used to have the reputation of being the bank robbery capital of the world”. He was the political reporter for the Montreal Daily News. It was a boring beat compared with the action happening on the streets, he says, so he and a colleague, the photographer Aussie Whiting, would listen out for police reports of robberies and rush off to them. “We were always the first on the scene,” he says. On that summer’s day: “We got in his car and he zoomed through all the red lights.” They got exclusive photographs and interviews with the police.
By the time Joanne, a radio reporter for Canada’s national broadcaster, CBC, arrived, everyone had gone, although there was still some blood on the pavement. “It was pretty grisly in those days,” she says. “No one else was around and then I saw Julien sitting on a bench.” They got talking and he offered to give her his recorded interviews. “I saved her story,” he says.
It was a generous act. “He was very nice. I remember what he was wearing – a red-and-white striped shirt. He was very handsome,” says Joanne. Julien thought Joanne was “very friendly and very pretty. Despite what we say about CBC reporters – they’re kind of the top shelf of journalism, but print reporters think they’re better – I was kind of impressed.”
She knew his name, though they had not bumped into each other on jobs before. They met again a few weeks later at a party held by a mutual friend. “Once I heard he was a city hall reporter, I started asking for a lot more city hall stories,” she says. It wasn’t hard, as nobody else in her newsroom particularly wanted to cover them. “Then we did start seeing each other a lot.”
In those days, Julien says, “I had an office at city hall. We had desks on the floor of the chamber with the elected officials and I noticed she was impressed.”
Joanne laughs. “I don’t remember that.”
Julien smiles. “Oh yeah, she was impressed.”
“Then I really made the next move,” says Joanne. “I got free tickets for the movie Mississippi Burning and I thought: ‘This is the chance; I’ll phone him and ask him if he wants to go.’ That was our first real date.” It went well – but, she says: “Julien again was not very proactive and it was hard to communicate in those days. He had a pager, so to get in touch with him I’d have to beep him. It took a long time to start getting into a regular routine because he was never around.”
In January 1989, they went to a party and the host, noticing that there was something between them, suggested they leave together. “It was snowing, the end of January,” says Joanne, and they walked through the park. “That was probably our first kiss,” says Joanne. Neither of them seem 100% sure, but Julien laughs: “OK, well I’ll go with that.”
They have been together now for 31 years and married for 20. Julien left journalism and works in renewable energy, while Joanne is a newsreader. They have a lot in common – such as an interest in politics, history and road trips – but Julien adds that they are opposite in many ways. “Joanne tries to keep me organised. She’s more practical than I am.”
Their 19-year-old daughter recently left for university. “Now that we have an empty nest, we have our own routine,” says Joanne. “It’s very comfortable – we’re very lucky. There are some stresses but, overall, we’re very fortunate to have each other.”
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