Rocky Harbour loses a pillar of the community

Cory Hurley
Published on August 8, 2014

Mornings in Rocky Harbour will never be the same.

The larger than life personality of Mr. Russo Payne will be sorely missed by a circle of friends — as well as the staff and visitors they encountered — who gathered daily at one of the restaurants in the coastal town on the lower Northern Peninsula.

The owner of Harbour Seafood, who died suddenly Monday at the age of 69, will be missed throughout the community.

One of those friends from the breakfast table is Brian Companion. The retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer met Payne in 1985, and they instantly became friends. He was drawn to his polite attitude and mannerisms and genuine personality.

“He enjoyed life to the fullest,” Companion said.

For years, every morning just before or after 7:30, he would receive a call from Payne to meet for coffee and or breakfast. They would pick a location, but most times it would be the Fisherman’s Landing.

No matter if the duo were joined by two, four, or eight friends, it was Payne who would make sure to get up from the table and sneak off to pay the bill. Companion said things got mildly contentious the times he tried to return the favour.

“We would solve all the problems of the world at that table in the mornings,” he said.

Companion will be thinking of his friend every morning now as his phone lies silent.

It wasn’t just a circle of friends who received the benefit of the businessman’s generosity either, said his distraught friend.

Companion recently lent a hand due to a staffing shortage at the fish plant, and he was amazed by what he learned.

“There is a side of him that a lot of people wouldn’t know,” he said. “He was always helping somebody.”

Companion also recognizes him as a devoted and compassionate family man.

The shock of his death resonated through the community this week.

He is already missed over at the Fisherman’s Landing. Owner Walter Nicolle still sounded a bit rattled by the news Thursday morning.

“If somebody is sick for a while and then passes, than you kind of expect it and prepare for it,” Nicolle said. “This was a shock.”

Nicolle is also the mayor of Rocky Harbour, where Payne was an instrumental figure.

“It is a tremendous blow to the community, no doubt,” said Nicolle. “He was a great man, a very well known man throughout the community.”

The fishplant, which has existed for more than 30 years in the town, provided a wealth of employment to the area, benefitting many people and the economy in general.

Payne was also former owner of the Jackladder restaurant and gas bar.

Nicolle also recognized Payne for his generosity to community groups, organizations and events.

The mayor went to St. Matthews Anglican Church to pay his respects Wednesday evening, and said the building was blocked with people even then. He expects a very large crowd for the funeral today.

Payne leaves behind a wife — Marie — and three sons — Christopher, Shawn and Kerry.