If you listen to 89.5 The HAWK, you will hear Don Lehn deliver the news in a clear and concise manner. As the HAWK’s news director, he has to be on top of it all. He spends copious amounts of time researching, interviewing and investigating stories. The work can be fast paced and there are constant demands to meet deadlines. This is natural for Don; it’s something that he thrives on and it’s also been his passion since he was just 12 years old.
Don’s mother was a very artistic lady who had a great appreciation for the theatre, oil painting and music. “My mom loved a wide variety of music. I share that same passion and I’m quite sure that I get my wild, creative side from her,” he laughed.
He spent his younger years in St. Catharine’s, Ontario but the weather back east impacted his father’s health negatively so after a visit to the coast in the summer of ’69, the family resolved to head west. “We settled in Richmond in October of that year and dad worked as an auto mechanic. I’ll never forget my first Christmas out here; I just couldn’t get over how green it was,” he reflected enthusiastically.
By the time that Don was in Grade 7, he asked his mother to write BCIT to find out what their entrance requirements were. “I knew even then what I wanted to do with my life.” After high school, he promptly started down the path to his radio career and two years after being admitted to the radio broadcasting program at BCIT, he graduated and began working at CKGF in Grand Forks. “I have been in radio now for 34 years and back when I graduated in 1979, I was the youngest grad from their program. I headed off to Grand Forks when I was barely 19. The mountains were glowing when I arrived in the middle of Doukhobor country. Talk about culture shock! After four months, I pulled the plug,” he said, with a chuckle.
After his short stint in Grand Forks, his radio career took him to CJVI in Victoria. From there, his career reads like a Canadian road map. “I then went to Kamloops, Regina, Calgary, Ottawa, the Fraser Valley (Chilliwack and Abbotsford), Vancouver and finally, I’m back for my second tour of duty in the Valley,” he listed.
Don started off his career as a disc jockey but by the time that he started in Ottawa, he moved over to the news side of the business. “I was asked if I wanted to do news and it didn’t take me but a moment to consider that full conversion. I was covering Parliament Hill and it was a good move for me. It’s funny because when I was in school, they encouraged us to do news, sports and public affairs and I thought that it was crazy. I just wanted to be a disc jockey. In hindsight, it was a good thing because not only did I end up doing news but I also did NHL hockey in addition to covering the CFL, CHL and Triple A Baseball and interviewing some pretty big names in the entertainment world,” he said.
For Don, his career always came first. “It didn’t just come first; really, it was so far ahead of everything and anything. It was all I lived and breathed. To this day, I am a workaholic although I now know the signs and have more control over myself. Back then, long lasting relationships meant nothing to me because it was all about work.” His life was out of balance and out of control. His lifestyle was fast and easy and included drugs and plenty of alcohol. “I was in Ottawa and it was New Years Eve. I was scheduled to emcee a Tom Cochrane concert and I was not only late for the gig but I showed up drunk and in sweats when I should have been in a tux. My general manager was a recovered alcoholic and it was she who saved my life. I was fired but this incident was what I call the beginning of the end of the beginning,” he explained.
Don was admitted to hospital and as he says, “There was a crash cart just waiting outside my door. They really didn’t think that I was going to make it. My body was under severe stress. I had high blood pressure and my glucose was out of control. I shouldn’t be here but thankfully, I survived.”
Today, as has been the case for many years now, Don is a proud recovered alcoholic and drug addict. For the last five years, he has also been a diabetic so he carefully watches his weight and his lifestyle. “My workday starts at 3:30 in the morning but I am careful to get my necessary rest and I enjoy exercising. I still work my butt off but I try to have a bit more balance in my life which includes forming relationships again. I also enjoy concerts and working out, I’m a music collector and buff and a huge supporter of the arts,” he said, with an earnest smile.