September 15, 2023

Statement of condolence on the death of Sharon Fitzhenry

The Association of Canadian Publishers is saddened by the news of the passing of Sharon Fitzhenry. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, and the entire publishing community during this difficult time.

Sharon was president, CEO, and majority shareholder at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, or Fitz & Witz, as the publisher and distributor is colloquially known. The family-owned company was established in 1966 and the management of the company was undertaken by the second generation in the mid-1990s. Over time, the company grew through acquisition: Red Deer Press, Whitecap Books, and Fifth House Publishers became subsidiaries. Its distribution arm remains one of Canada’s few independent trade book distributors, and is responsible for launching the success of many ACP members. A unifying theme across all of Sharon’s publishing endeavors was to celebrate the diverse variety of people, places, and ideas that make Canada unique. She had a particular interest in trade books on science and the environment, and created the Lane Anderson Award to celebrate achievement in these fields. 

Years ago, when the LPG was looking for a distributor, Marc Cote and I visited Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Sharon took us around, and showed us the office of her father, Robert Fitzhenry, an homage to his Harper & Row office in New York, including his desk. Sharon always called him Pop, and she was devoted to him. She convinced Pop to let her develop original titles, and from there she thrived as both a distributor and a publisher, ultimately owning Red Deer, Fifth House, and Whitecap, in addition to F&W. Sharon was opinionated, iconoclastic, and funny. Her authors were loyal, and she often hired experienced people who had held multiple roles in other companies. Together with her sister, Holly Doll, they created a vibrant company that I’m sure Pop was very proud of. She loved publishing four-colour nature books; in fact, she simply loved books. I shall miss having lunch with her.” – Jack David, Co-Publisher, ECW Press. 

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of Sharon Fitzhenry’s passing. She was an original who always did things her own way, and she was wholly committed to her vision of a publisher for all of Canada. Her contributions to Canadian literature and her pioneering work for women in the Canadian publishing sector will be remembered fondly. Sharon and the team at Fitzhenry & Whiteside are responsible for launching the careers of many Canadian writers, and she will be dearly missed by those who had the pleasure to work with her.” – Jack Illingworth, Executive Director, Association of Canadian Publishers. 

On behalf of the Association of Canadian Publishers and its members, we express our deepest sympathies to the extended Fitzhenry family and Sharon’s many friends and colleagues.

For more information, contact:
Jack Illingworth, Executive Director
Association of Canadian Publishers