There are very few people in North Durham who are not familiar with Compton Communications, now owned by Rogers. This very successful cable and internet giant grew from small beginnings, and emerged to provide many of us with television, internet and interactive communications.
The name comes from the owners, Nancy and Ron Compton, who had interesting beginnings. These included hard work, especially as a start-up company in the technology industry, with consumer demands, which were very high. So where did it all begin?
For Ron, it started in Toronto, in a family of four kids. Work was no stranger to Ron’s life, as his father operated a TV and antenna business, and Ron was put to work at an early age. As if working for his dad wasn’t enough, during his years at Westview Centennial Secondary School, he drove a Zamboni for a North York arena, and worked at Loews drive-in theatre.
Ron gained his interest in technology from working with his father, who had successfully bided for the contracts with the school boards throughout Metropolitan Toronto, to install television master systems in the schools. “It meant we had to put up an antenna, and then wire each classroom. It was hard work, but really interesting,” Ron explained.
Cable TV was coming of age in the late sixties. Ron and his dad applied for the CRTC licence to outfit Uxbridge, an area he felt was up and coming. “We did not hear anything for two years, so we put it out of our minds and continued working.” Finally approval came, and in order to satisfy the needs of the area, the Comptons moved to Uxbridge.
Meanwhile, back in Scarborough, Nancy Burger attended Cedarbrae Secondary School, and was extremely active as a volunteer for many years, canvassing for the cancer society. Her family moved to Uxbridge, where Nancy participated in the Terry Fox Run for 5 consecutive years, raising $10,000.
Right after high school, at the age of 17, Nancy joined the Junior Forest Rangers program, and was posted in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. During that time her group was sent 200 km north of Pickle Lake, to build a log cabin for the Ministry of Natural Resources. It was her love of the outdoors and nature that led her into the Forestry Program at Sir Sanford Fleming College. She landed a job at the animal control centre in Goodwood, which served both Uxbridge and Scugog Townships.
One day, Nancy and Ann Barrett from animal control, had spent three hours trying to catch a husky, who was obviously enjoying some freedom time, off leash. Unsuccessful in their effort, they ended up at the Dairy Bar in Port Perry, where Ann saw a friend, Ron. They sat together and after they explained about their three-hour ordeal with the husky, Ron sank in his chair, as he was dog sitting the escaped pooch for his cousin.
Ron was smitten by Nancy and asked her to a pig roast, of all things, but she turned him down. His persistence eventually paid off. “He asked me six more times, to go out with him and eventually I said yes,” Nancy remarked, smiling. “We began dating in November 1979 and we were married in August 1980.”
Nancy worked for local Veterinarian Jim Brown in Port Perry, for two and a half years. She then joined the Mitchells as Manager of the card shop on Queen Street (part of the Settlement House). “I explained I had never worked in retail before, but they offered me the position anyway,” she said happily.
In 1976 Ron bought the business from his dad, who moved to PEI, and afterward Ron was awarded the cable licence for Port Perry. “This was great, because we could now link Uxbridge and Port Perry into one system,” Ron explained.
The couple lived in Caesarea until 1982, when they purchased the property in Utica to build a new tower, office building and their personal residence. In 1993, Ron and Nancy rebuilt the entire Cable TV system to facilitate the new services of the future.
After 39 years in business, 2011 was a monumental year for the Compton’s, with the decision to sell to Rogers. This family decision was made because the industry was changing so fast, and required capital investment well beyond the financial resources of this small company. Their son continued to work for Rogers for 7 years, and their daughter left to teach in BC.
After the sale, Ron and Nancy began The Compton Family Foundation, offering grants to those in need, as a way to give back to the community. “There are no restrictions, as long as it is a non-profit organization,” Nancy explained. “The Foundation is managed by Scotiabank Aqueduct, a division of the bank that facilitates charitable foundations,” Nancy added. (Contact details are at the end of this article). The Compton’s maintain complete control of where the proceeds go. “We want to make sure the cause is in line with our vision, as well as ensuring it benefits the local community.” Some of the recipients of the Foundation are Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham, Port Perry Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Community Care, and Young Life. The Compton’s have also chipped in to help the Lake Scugog Historical Society, with its goal of ensuring old copies of Scugog newspapers are digitized and available online for the public.
So, what does the future hold for this local couple? “We love travelling,” they explained. “We have been to the Galapagos Islands, the Greek Islands and a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.” Intriguingly, they have also completed a trip through the Northwest Passage on a Russian research vessel, starting from Kugluktuk (Nunavut) near the border with the Northwest Territories, and ending up in Greenland.
Ron and Nancy have been involved in the Scugog arena fundraising committee and the Utica Daycare Board. They have been the recipients of the Paul Harris Fellowship Award presented by the Rotary Club of Port Perry, as well as being on the Mayor’s Honour Roll in January 2020.
It is so wonderful to have people like Ron and Nancy in our community. On behalf of the community of North Durham, I would like to extend a big thank you to them for all that they do.
The Ron and Nancy Compton Foundation
Aqueduct Foundation c/o Scotiatrust
Suite 510 - 650 West Georgia Street,
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.