I've written plenty of stories over the years to mark the passing of people in Greater Sudbury who left their mark – good or bad – but this one is different.
Carol Mulligan was 67 when she passed away Sunday. She hired me for my first writing job in Sudbury in the mid-1990s, at a time when Northern Life Newspaper was moving in a big way into news coverage. In those days, newsrooms were full of big, difficult personalities, the type of people you needed to fulfill the old journalism credo: afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.*
That was Carol, through and through. She was managing editor at Northern Life in the 1980s-1990s, where she met Sudbury Living Magazine editor Vicki Gilhula, who later was Mulligan's news editor.
“I met Carol in 1986 when she came to work at the newspaper,” Gilhula said in a statement. “I was a reporter at Northern Ontario Business. She taught me a lot about community newspapers, things we didn’t learn in journalism school.
“I admired her passion for the people of Sudbury and how deeply she got involved with some of the issues. Journalists are taught to keep their distance but Carol’s empathy for the people she interviewed and things she wrote about was her strength.
“Just last week, she messaged me on Facebook. I am glad I told her then I considered her one of my best friends.”
Brian McLeod was managing editor at The Sudbury Star when Carol worked as a reporter in the 2000s. He remembers her the way most of us do: the fighter for people who couldn't fight for themselves.
“When it came to the disadvantaged, she was determined to shine a light on their plight,” McLeod said Monday in a message. “Stories of unfairness and unnecessary hardship drove her above all. She genuinely worked to make the world a better place for people who needed that help.”
While she was a reporter, MacLeod remembers the day she got herself arrested during a protest at former Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci's office almost a decade ago.
“She had wanted to stay until the end to witness how protesters were being treated,” he said. “Carol was like that. She wanted to make sure people had a voice. Her stories on health care and and labour reflected the essence and heart of the community. Her passing is a big loss for journalism and for Sudbury.”
At the Star and, later, for Sudbury.com, Carol devoted much of her time to health care coverage, exposing stories of hallway medicine and fighting for patient rights.
Health Sciences North CEO Dominic Giroux offered his condolences Monday in a tweet.
“Gone way too soon,” Giroux tweeted. “She would never shy away from tough questions. Loved her 'Columbo' style of interviewing: 'oh, and just one more thing.' Condolences to family and friends.”
After she retired from reporting, Carol ran for the NDP nomination in Sudbury with the motto “Sudbury needs a Mulligan.” The party released a statement Monday from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, NDP MPP France Gelinas and NDP MPP Jamie West, calling her “a New Democrat activist.”
“I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of Carol Mulligan,” the statement said. “Carol was a talented journalist and a thoughtful storyteller committed to showing the human side of every issue. As a reporter and an activist, she worked tirelessly to keep her fellow citizens informed and to be a voice for those whose stories would otherwise not be heard.
“My thoughts are with Carol’s family and loved ones today, and with her community of Sudbury. We have all lost a powerful and compassionate voice.”
Mayor Brian Bigger said in a statement he was very sad to hear the news.
“She was a well respected journalist with so much passion for our community and the people who lived here,” Bigger tweeted. “I want to extend my condolences to her friends and family during this difficult time.”
Mulligan's niece and nephew, Heidi Ferguson and Clinton Burnett, issued a statement this week on the passing of their aunt.
"Our Aunt Carol was truly a remarkable individual. She was fun loving, caring, kind and full of life. She knew how to tell a good story and she had a gift of being able to connect with people, whether she had known you for twenty years or twenty minutes. We will cherish our memories, laugh as we reminisce and keep her forever in our hearts.
"Our family is grateful for the outpouring of phone calls, messages and condolences we have received from her friends, family and the Sudbury community. It is clear that Carol made a huge impact on those who knew her and was deeply loved by many."
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Mulligan's age as 66.