Susan Hay – The Simple Life

Global News broadcaster Susan Hay opens up about her life north of the city

Susan Hay marches through a field of knee-high grass in pursuit of one of her three Norwegian elkhounds. An unforgiving sun beats down as the veteran Global News broadcaster tries to round up her dogs before they wander too deep into her expansive 20-acre horse farm. “Tiko!” she calls, attempting to coax the enormously furry canine, the middle and craftiest of her pack, back toward the gate and out of the pale green meadow. Tiko, unfortunately, is far more interested in roving; sniffing out whatever it is he’s sniffing. But Hay, in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and tartan Wellingtons, remains undeterred by either the heat or her carefree animal.

To say this scene was unexpected is an understatement. Those who tune in to Global’s nightly News Hour will be more accustomed to seeing Hay in urban settings and adorned with more professional attire, a blazer and collared shirt perhaps, something that evokes “downtown” as opposed to, well, this.

“A lot of people think they know you because they’ve watched you for so long,” Hay explains later from her farmhouse living room. “I think I resonate with people, so I think they think they know what Susan Hay is all about, and they have a pretty good idea, but there’s still a lot they don’t know.”

Hay has been a fixture of Global Television for the past 25 years. Her sandy locks, infectious smile and sharp broadcasting have seen her transition from weather presenter to host, anchor and producer of her own segment, “Making a Difference.” But despite her citywide beat, it’s the quiet and modest life here among thick drunken trees and buzzing insects that she prefers.

“What I love is it’s very private,” she explains of the expansive and lush property, which she shares with her partner, Randy Marshall, a veterinarian who she’s been with for the past seven years. Hay, who was born and raised in the smaller northern city of North Bay, moved to the Newmarket area two years ago when the pair decided to merge lives. It’s a stark contrast to her former life in the city, but it’s one that helps her balance the conspicuousness of her career in the public eye.

“We really have a full life, but it’s a simple life,” she explains. Morning coffee on the front porch; evening walks around the property; hitting golf balls in the spacious meadow; cooking meals with Marshall and her stepdaughter Brooke (being a stepmother, she notes, has been a wonderful experience, one that’s made their family closer); weekends at their island cottage on Georgian Bay, where they’ll be Friday to Sunday no matter the weather — it’s a humble existence that she’s come to appreciate.

“I just love to make a house a home,” she says. “I don’t think I’m Susan Hay from Global Television. I’m just Susan Hay. The real me is I want to provide and support my family. I don’t mean financially. I just mean I want a nice home, a comfortable home. Sure, I love nice things, but for me it’s about the love in the house. It’s about wanting to come home and to be with these people that are now in my life.

“And just making sure we’re raising Brooke in a way that she knows it’s not about how you look, it’s how big your heart is,” she adds.

It’s this optimism and compassion that has really connected with audiences over the years. For more than a decade, Hay’s bread and butter has been her personal segment “Making a Difference.” Originally titled “Susan Hay’s Heart of the City,” which ran as a weekly half-hour show when it was launched in 2001, “Making a Difference” focuses on, as she likes to say, “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Running during Global’s evening News Hour, these features uncover the inspirational stories of regular Canadians making a difference at a grassroots level. She researches, writes, hosts and produces every segment. More recent profiles have featured organizations such as Sketch, a community arts initiative that provides at-risk youths with opportunities for expression and growth; the annual Unionville Lavender Fair, which raises awareness for Alzheimer’s disease; and a Habitat for Humanity project that gave a family of 14 with 5 children with disabilities a big enough home to house them all.

Hay explains that during the Habitat for Humanity project she asked the mother of the family what was the one thing she wanted when they finally moved into the new home, and the mother replied: a table big enough to seat everyone, something they were never able to do before. “There is so much love in this family,” Hay says. “So I found a designer that got somebody to donate a table for 14 and we surprised them with it.” It was such a touching moment, Hay just couldn’t hold back the tears.

Hay has supported numerous charities over her career, including Reach for the Rainbow, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and World Vision, all causes she’s supported for over a decade. The most significant moments of that work were three journeys she made to Africa with World Vision in the 2000s. In 2003, she travelled to Mozambique to help children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. It was also where she sponsored her first child, Assiva. In 2005, Hay made a similar trip to Kenya and in 2006 she ventured to Tanzania to build schools. During that time in Tanzania, she helped save two sick little girls, one with malaria and the other with walking pneumonia, by taking them to a hospital for treatment.

Her time in Africa resulted in a one-hour documentary that aired in the United States and Canada and won her a Telly award for excellence in broadcasting. “I think my work in Africa really brought everything home for me,” says Hay, who received a Gemini Award for her humanitarian efforts in 2009. “I’m lucky enough to have a platform with a voice that people listen to, so I can speak on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves.”

And it’s those experiences that Hay will always treasure. “When you’re on your last days in life, those are the memories that are going to come flooding back — love and family and those special moments.”

Hay celebrated 25 years with Global this past May, but she’s still looking to the future. Her plans? “I would like my own show,” she says. She explains that she’d love to do a cooking show where she interviews chefs or iconic Canadians while they prepare and eat a meal together. It’s an interesting idea, one that puts a unique spin on the standard interview.

But what would it be called?

“Simply Delicious With Susan Hay,” she says with a smile.

Is that locked in?

“That’s going to be locked in,” she laughs. “I’m going to throw it out there.”

So you should buy the domain name, then?

“I think so. Because I’m simple and I want it to be simply delicious.”

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