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Norm Muffitt, 1942-2011
posted January 1, 2012
 

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Norm Muffitt, a prolific cartoonist for news publications in the Canadian northwest that worked under the nom de plume "Bush," died on August 19 in Alberta from complications due to cancer. He was 69 years old.

Muffitt was the son of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. The elder Muffitt enrolled in his country's air force at the outset of World War II and was presumed dead after going missing in action in the European theater of war -- through documents declassified years later Muffit discovered his father died off the coast of Ireland doing secret test pilot work. Muffitt noted in an interview with Susanna McLeod done earlier this year that, "The last thing he asked my mother was to keep him (meaning me...) out of uniform. Ergo I joined the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Air Cadets, Army Cadets, Reserve Air Force and Militia as soon as I came of age. I learned to fly on an Air Cadet Scholarship at 17."

Muffitt told McLeod his childhood love of cartooning was nurtured during his mother's second marriage, to a jazz musician, during his teen years. He enrolled in the RCMP at age 18, and continued to draw on the side. One of his duties was touring North America performing in the organization's long-running equestrian showcase the RCMP Musical Ride. He would eventually become a pilot, first with the RCMP and then after retiring in 1986 with Transport Canada.

Muffitt made his first professional sale to Army Laughs magazine in 1971, while in the thick of his career as a pilot. A chance meeting with publisher Jack Sigvaldason of what would eventually become the Northern News Services in early 1972 kickstarted would become a nearly four-decade relationship with that group's publications. The pen-name "Bush" was used because of Muffitt's ties to the RCMP's Air Services Branch. Although Muffitt had permission to pursue that work if his true identity could be hidden from everyone save his editors, Muffitt worked in a position of enough sensitivity in terms of flying dignitaries around the Canadian northwest that any extra notoriety might have become a hindrance. Muffitt's first cartoon for Northern News appeared in November 1972.

Among Muffitt's many, varied and typically frequent clients were Northern News' first paper The Yellowknifer, News North, The Deh Cho Drum, The Inuvik Drum, The Fort Saskatchewan Record, The Albertaner and The Sherwood Park News. Muffitt would do both black and white and color work as required -- sometimes a black and white version would see publication in print and a color version on-line. He was regarded as a gently humorous cartoonist that focused on local and regional issues. Two of his recurring visual elements were a mouse -- based on a mouse that got loose in the newspaper offices early in his freelance relationship with Northern News -- and a raven.

Muffitt was diagnosed with cancer in May, and went on hiatus from his six-days-a-week cartooning gig soon after.

Muffitt was an active member of such organizations of RCMP Veterans, the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists and the St. Albert Cosmopolitcan Club. He received RCMP's Long Service Medal and the Silver Jubilee Media, and was given the Belt Of Orion Award For Excellence by the Canadian Aviation Hall Of Fame.

Norm Muffitt is survived by his wife, a sister, a daughter (the cartoonist Jen Jones), a son-in-law, two grandchildren and a great grand-child. A "Best Of Bush" feature at Northern News can be seen here.