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Obituary: book buyer and distributor Deborah Lewington

Deborah LewingtonThe Canadian publishing industry has lost one of its veterans and a beloved colleague. Deborah Lewington, a book buyer and distributor for more than 40 years, died Oct. 15.

Lewington’s career in books began at retailer W.H. Smith in the 1970s. In a 2008 interview, she told Q&Q she was surprised to discover that working as a bookseller didn’t mean she could “sit at the information desk and read.” She added, “I have worked in this industry for a couple of decades and still don’t read on the job. It’s not really a regret, though – I have no regrets.”

Over the years, Lewington worked as a buyer for several chains, including Classics, Coles, and The Book Company. In 1996, she left her job at Chapters to take a position as  buyer and category manager with Heather Reisman’s newly formed Indigo Books & Music. Throughout her career, Lewington developed close friendships with many of her colleagues, including, at Indigo, Michael Nicholson and Anne Garner. Says Nicholson: “Deborah was one of a kind. She had a generous spirit and was always smart, funny and one of best people I’ve had the good fortune to work with. She worked with everyone, remembered everything and gave of her time and her good nature selflessly. She leaves an irreplaceable absence.”

Along with Garner and North 49 Books’ co-owner Diane Waldock, Lewington was part of an informal club of women in publishing known as the Book Bag Ladies. “We would get together and eat and drink,” says Ann Ledden, Canadian sales director at Firefly Books. “She was an astute buyer but, much more importantly, she was a compassionate, funny, elegant person.”

Lewington remained at Indigo until 2008. Shortly after her departure, she was hired as sales and marketing manager for the Toronto-based distributor National Book Network. NBN managing director Les Petriw, who brought Lewington on, says, “Deborah always displayed incredible knowledge of the publishing industry, and conducted her work with utmost grace and distinction.”

In 2012, Lewington and her husband, Brian, sold their Toronto house and moved to a rural 23-acre property with a river in Grafton, Ontario. Lewington continued to work part-time from her new home, which she called her “dream on the stream.”

Lewington was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2013. Despite this, Petriw says, “Her day-to-day spirits were always positive and uplifting, and even throughout this last difficult year she showed amazing strength and composure, and always made time for good phone conversations and personal visits. Miss her a lot.”

According to Ledden, a gathering in Lewington’s memory is being planned in Toronto for friends and colleagues. Q&Q will update this story with details as they become available.