Ralph Hancox

August 23, 1929March 22, 2017

Ralph Hancox, latterly from Victoria, British Columbia, died 22 March 2017 at the fine age of 87 after a short stay at the Victoria General Hospital recovering from a fall.

Ralph was born to Ada Frances Smith and Harold Barnsley Hancox in West Hamstead, England on 23 August 1929. He was predeceased by sister Sylvia (Gordon, deceased) and survived by brother John (Irene, deceased).

Ralph was predeceased by his beloved wife of 61 years, Margaret Gilmour Frier, who he married in Ickenham, England on 5 June 1954.

Ralph attended the School of Modern Languages, Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where he mastered the Pitman shorthand, a prerequisite skill for his early career in journalism. In 1965, Ralph won a Nieman Fellowship recognizing excellence in Canadian editorial writing at the Peterborough Examiner and attended Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Later he joined Harvard’s Program for Management Development as part of the PMD 26 cohort at the School of Business.

Ralph started his career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force at the tender age of 17. He trained in Rhodesia. He hurtled through the air in a variety of different aircraft including the Tiger Moth (which he described as a tin can), Harvard, and the first RAF jet, the Gloster Meteor. He flew in the Berlin Airlift in 1948, and later as a journalist covered the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1961, he reported on his experience travelling via the underground from East to West Berlin through the Wall. In Canada he started his career in journalism writing obituaries for the Kingston Whig Standard. After a career as Editor-in-Chief at the Peterborough Examiner as a colleague of Robertson Davies, he joined the Reader's Digest where he worked for 32 years. Ralph ended his first career after 16 years as Chairman, President, and CEO of Reader's’ Digest, Canada and Consigliere delegato and chairman of Reader’s Digest Italy. Post retirement he served as Adjunct Professor and Professional Fellow Emeritus at Simon Fraser University where he published a textbook on Managing the Publishing Process for the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. There, he was honoured with the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service for 10 years of teaching before he retired again at the age of 80, in 2009.

Peg and Ralph (aka Hank) lived a life post-World War II in Canada pursuing family and career dreams in Kingston, Peterborough, Boston, New York, Montreal, Milan, Vancouver and Victoria, with summers at Sandy Lake and weekends of leisure in Vermont. He was inquisitive and over the years Ralph pursued his passion in photography, choral music, madrigals, travelling the world, writing and publishing 6 books exploring topics of social conscience, family history and publishing. Simple pleasures included sautéing the perfect scallop, bird and wildlife watching. A storyteller at heart, he regaled generations of family and students with lessons he learned from his rich life experiences. “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement” he would say, quoting his mother.

He was a man of letters in the classic sense: fountain pen, elegant italic script to paper and daily journaling over the last 53 years. He engaged in written repartees, Olympian literary gymnastics with family and friends, including long time Peterborough friend and librarian, Bob Porter.

He was not an ordinary man. Robert Frost’s words “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” describes the restless soul, the intimate relationships, the daily tensions, his ability to question and think deeply and at the same time embrace his life. His mind never rested as he explored life and the meaning of existence, to the day he died.

The unfinished business he leaves behind includes a never ending 20 foot long pile of uncut wood in Vermont and a half finished literary masterpiece.

Ralph leaves behind a wonderfully appreciative family who live with gratitude across Canada: Linda, Rick (Mary), Alison (Chris), Julian (Laura). Ralph is Morfar to Matthew, Liesel, Luke, Kenzie, Jessie, Isaac, Jessika, Dallas and Morgan and great grandfather to Anders and Rowan. Ralph leaves fond memories with the extended family and children of Sandra (Charlie), Suzanne (Kirk), Phillip, Lindsey (Steve), nieces and nephews of John and Sylvia’s families in England.

A celebration of life will be hosted at First Memorial Funeral Services, 4725 Falaise Drive, Victoria on Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 3:30-4:30 pm. Following, friends are welcome to join the family at their home 5 - 6:30 pm for a reception. In the summer of 2017, service and interment for both Ralph and Peg will be held at the family plot in Cataraqui, outside Kingston, Ontario, with a special celebration and reunion of family and friends.

More information about Ralph’s publishing career is found on the Fictive Press website ( and (

A writing project, he undertook in December 2016 with daughter Alison, with a compilation of poems, essays and letters, which shares Ralph’s insights about his understanding of the meaning of life can be viewed here. (


Ralph Hancox

have a memory or condolence to add?

Anne Miner

September 7, 2017

To all members of his family and those he held most dear, you will surely miss Mr. Hancox. Like so many others, when I worked with him, I did not use his first name as it always felt too familiar.

He was a wonderful mentor and taught me what a great leader can be. I use the lessons learned nearly every day!

It has been a great honour to know him and I too will miss his shining light.

May 17, 2017

My deepest sympathies. I'm sorry to ask this here and at this sad time, but I'm trying to reach Sandi Eggleton. I'm an old friend from Montreal. Do you have her contact information? Sorry again for your loss.
Peter Darwish

May 9, 2017

I recently heard about Ralph's passing, and I wanted to offer my sincere condolences. I will always remember him with affection.
Angela Molino and family (Montreal, QC)

Ellen L'Ecuyer

April 19, 2017

I worked at RDC during Mr. Hancox's tenure as president. It never ceased to amaze me that in his busy schedule he took time to pen personal notes to staff. I still have a couple,done in his beautiful signature script and fountain pen.
He took the time to know everyone's names and greet them. A true leader and gentleman.
My condolences to the family. A bright light has dimmed. He will be remembered dearly by many.
Ellen L'Ecuyer

Lyne Chateauvert

April 18, 2017

Ralph Hancox never forgot a name or face. In all my years at the Digest (almost 30 years), he always greeted you by your name. What a wonderful, brilliant man. My condolences to the family.

April 17, 2017

A simple note to the entire Hancox families on their loss.
Your father was - and will always remain to me - the epitome of class and grace.
I had the opportunity to let him know that in writing approximately one year ago. I am so glad that I did.
His e-book picture shows perfectly his class and elegance.
My sympathies to you all.
Will & Sharon Carey

Linda Hancox

April 3, 2017

Hi Linda,

I wanted to send my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your dad. One of the last real gentlemen I think. I'm so glad that your lovely son brought him over here when we had Sombrio in the driveway last summer. We had such a nice visit. Your father must have been so proud of you and your children. There is no getting around the grief, but I hope that it's the happy memories that you are feeling the most.

sending love and best wishes, Sandi Eggleton

Linda Hancox

April 3, 2017

I knew the first, the only time I met your dad in Papua New Guinea, that he had had an interesting life, he was a pleasure to talk with.

It's clear that he enjoyed a varied and busy life, blessed with success and fulfilment.

I hope that this fact will give you and yours some comfort at this sad time. I'll be in touch.

Roger McLean

March 30, 2017

We have very fond memories of Ralph dating back to the late 1950s and during his "Peterborough Examiner" years. At that time, we were members of a local amateur dramatic club and Ralph attended several of our play productions, reviewing them for his paper, always with a touch of humour. Later, he became associated with our club, and our very good friend. We have many happy memories of our time together, and these we will always cherish, affectionately and with a smile. We feel so privileged to have known him and received his friendship.
We are greatly saddened by his passing, and extend our very sincere condolences to the Hancox family.
Barbara and Gerald Cantello, Peterborough, Ontario

March 30, 2017

Linda, sad news indeed for you, your kids and your siblings. As you say, the end of an era. Our parents Ralph , Peg , Bob and Val had a history of friendship that lasted many decades. Ralph had a long and very productive life. A father to be proud of as he was of his children.
I forwarded your message on to my brother John. In my message to him, I recalled how we marvelled at your charismatic and brilliant Dad. From the time we were grammar school kids, we imagined that he resembled the handsome and rakish Sir Francis Drake. Ralph was a great raconteur we all loved his stories whether local Peterborough gossip from his Examiner days, to his term on the Board of Education or his publishing exploits with Reader Digest, (I still refer to his Home Improvement Manual). He was witty and observant. I also recall his stories of growing up in London during the war and descriptions of his Dad, who I believe was an electrician, testing high voltage circuits by touching them. I also remember one story that reduced your Dad to tears, as he recalled a mate in the RAF, crashing his jet.
Your Dad was very kind and loyal to Bob, and as you point out, an admirer of his wood carvings. We cherish the collection of photos of Bob's work that Ralph photographed and had printed. John and I are delighted that your family have these carvings and will continue to enjoy them.