Longtime Vancouver editor, art director, and musician Bob Mercer dies

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      A popular Vancouver journalist has died after a bout with cancer.

      Editor, art director, and musician Bob Mercer was 72.

      "His final days were filled with love and support from his family and friends," Mercer's Facebook page says. "At this time, Bob's family is taking time to process his passing. News of a virtual memorial will be announced once arrangements have been made.

      "To respect Bob's wishes, we ask that you not send flowers," the message continues. "If you would still like to honour Bob's passing in some way, we suggest that you make a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation or the charity of your choosing in his name." 

      During his career from the 1970s to the 2010s, Mercer was editor of Vancouver magazine, editor and art director of the Georgia Straight, editor and art director of Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine, and worked as a copy and design editor at the Province.

      Mercer was also a student journalist at the SFU Peak from 1971 to 1972 and later taught in the SFU publishing program.

      One of his friends, Ray Tomlin, worked with him at the Peak and remained in touch with Mercer over the years.

      When Mercer was editing the Straight in the early 1980s, Tomlin introduced him to Ian Caddell, who went on to cover the film industry for three decades with the paper until he died in 2012.

      Tomlin described Mercer as "an utterly unique original, and a multi-talented editor/art director and musician".

      Mercer earned respect in the publishing industry in part because of his eye for design. At VLM, he wasn't afraid to shoot black-and-white covers when these were practically unheard-of in the local publishing industry. Some of those were photographed by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.

      Bob Mercer commissioned Vancouver photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward to photograph Gloria Macarenko in black and white for VLM.

      Mercer's friends are in mourning

      As much as Mercer was admired for his artistic skills, it was his sense of humour and easy laughter that left a big impression on people he came in contact with.

      "I am gobsmacked with news that you left us," friend Chris Cross wrote on Facebook. "I will miss our lively banter. You sure knew how to get my dander up on all things political. We were usually on the same side though and ended up laughing."

      Former Province political cartoonist Bob Krieger described Mercer's death as "a damn shame".

      "Such a funny, thoughtful, smart, talented, fearless guy," Krieger wrote. "Fuck cancer." 

      Capilano University instructor and former Vancouver magazine staffer Sue Dritmanis also expressed her sorrow.

      "Bob was a treasure, and a wonderful friend and extremely supportive colleague during our magazine editing years," she wrote. "All my love to his family whom he loved fiercely and was immensely proud of."

      There's an amusing story, which was covered by the Straight in 1995, of Mercer being involved in an unusual altercation with then Province editor-in-chief Michael Cooke.

      At the time, Mercer was crossing Granville Street when a four-door Taurus approached.

      "Mercer thought the late-model sedan had deliberately swerved toward him, so he started shouting at the driver," the Straight reported. "After the driver stopped the car, an irate Mercer kicked out the side mirror. Only then did he learn that his boss, Cooke, was the man behind the wheel."

      The then president of the Newspaper Guild, Jan O'Brien, said that Mercer immediately apologized and offered to pay for the broken mirror. Mercer was suspended for two weeks without pay, but managed to avoid being fired due to the union's intervention.

      Back then, Cooke refused to tell the Straight how fast he was driving.

      Mercer's Facebook page includes a growing list of fond recollections from others who either worked with him or crossed paths with him over the years.

      "So sorry to hear," former publisher and ex-city councillor Peter Ladner wrote on Mercer's Facebook page. "I always loved my exchanges with Bob—well-designed thoughts and insights always. Fond memories of our work together."

      Longtime environmental activist Mae Burrows described Mercer as a "sweet, good man".

      "Such tenderness I feel for Bob's kindness and intellect," she wrote.

      Another environmental activist, Sea Shepherd Society founder Paul Watson, also expressed his sorrow, noting that he had just reconnected with Mercer a few months ago.

      There are also tributes from musicians on Mercer's Facebook page.

      One of them, David Capper, wrote that he felt honoured to have performed with Mercer a handful of times, describing him as "so dynamic as a performer and funny on the mic".

      According to Capper, Mercer closed his gigs by telling the audience to save their applause and just throw money.

      "I completely stole that line and use it at the end of my gigs nowadays and always think of Bob when I do," Capper wrote.