UPDATED: Former Duncan mayor Jim Quaife dead at 79

Jim Quaife served as a business leader, Korean war soldier and politician, and even had a chance, as mayor, to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Duncan. - courtesy Marlene Quaife
Jim Quaife served as a business leader, Korean war soldier and politician, and even had a chance, as mayor, to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Duncan.
— image credit: courtesy Marlene Quaife

Jim Quaife — a Korean War vet and former Duncan mayor who helped stop B.C.’s unpopular HST — lost his battle with cancer Thursday morning in Cowichan District Hospital.

He as 79.

Quaife’s wife of 37 years, Marlene, explained her husband’s sudden death followed surgery Dec. 10, and other procedures since then.

“Jim always fought for the underdog. Cowichan Tribes made him a blood brother.

‘He’s the best thing that ever happened to Duncan; Jim loved his town. He started Teen Town because they had the highest juvenile-delinquent rate in Canada  and in just one year he brought that rate down by 30%,” Marlene said of Quaife who helped design and build Bright Angel Park’s suspension bridge.

Services are expected to pack Friday’s 1 p.m. event at Duncan’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tzouhalem Road.

“Jim was loved by so many people,” Marlene said, noting members of The Queen’s Own Rifles, the Cowichan Legion, Cowichan Tribes, and local services clubs.

Cowichan Legionaire and friend Allan Waddy will lead services for the ex-Crofton mill worker who owned Jim’s Sporting Goods where Just Jake’s now sits.

“Jim’s legacy is how he impacted hundreds and hundreds of lives, and made better citizens of young people — I was one of them.”

Waddy met Quaife in ‘59 through Teen Town started in Shawnigan Lake.

“He was a wonderful, selfless person, and one of the youngest mayors in Canada at age 32,” he said of Quaife’s two mayoral terms (1966-72). Public service was his main goal. Jim always cared about the other person.”

Quaife more recently gained media attention by spearheading the local effort in the provincial campaign to trash the HST in August 2011.

“I think it’s a good wake-up for politicians, and a feather in the cap of people who believe in democracy,” Quaife said after British Columbians voted 54.73% in favour of axing that controversial tax.

Former CowichanTribes land manager John Keating worked with Quaife when the band bought the old Koksilah Nursery to train young Tribes members.

“Jim was a remarkable man. He was a really good mentor in many ways to the young people at the nursery; he led by example. His work ethic was hard to keep up with, even if you were a young person,” Keating said of the former roofing businessman.

Keating seconded former mayor Mike Coleman’s notion native-Brit Quaife was a friendly and robust guy, with eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“He was a real leader, immensely upbeat, always had a smile and always saw opportunities.”

One opportunity in 1954 saw Cpl. Quaife save his squad of front-line soldiers whose weapons were being refurbished.

“North Koreans crossed the DMZ into where Jim’s men were, and they all laid down and played dead,” he explained of Quaife who received the Peacekeeping Medal.

“To this day it left him visibly shaken.”

Quaife survived to shake hands with the Queen and Prince Philip who laid the cornerstone of Duncan’s new library near downtown in 1971.

Quaife’s scrapbooks will be donated to Duncan’s archives, Marlene noted.


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