Condolences are rolling in for Mike Coleman, the City of Duncan’s longest serving mayor, who died at home surrounded by family on Tuesday, June 29.
Michelle Staples, Duncan’s current mayor, said she met Coleman in the early 1990s and, through the years, worked on various community projects with him.
“I enjoyed his wit and excitement for life and the deep level of commitment to his community and the place and people he loved,” Staples said.
“I have always loved witnessing the relationship he and his wife Barb shared, their humour and love for life and their boys and family. Mayor Mike, you are loved and you will be missed.”
Coleman was first elected to Duncan city council as an alderman in 1973, and then mayor in 1979. It was a position he would fill for 22 years. He also became president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
He was named a Freeman of the City in 2011, and the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce honoured Coleman with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Phil Kent, a former mayor of Duncan who knew Coleman well, said Coleman was the consummate example of what public service is meant to be.
“Mike always had the good of the community at his heart,” Kent said.
“Different times called for different kinds of leadership and Mike was successful in making Duncan a central community in this region in his long time as mayor, while also being cognizant of wanting everyone to do well in the community. I went to see him last Monday and, while Mike was unable to speak to me, I had a good conversation with Barb and the boys. I’m glad I had that opportunity. Mike was also a big hockey fan and I wonder if he might miss seeing who won the Stanley Cup this year.”
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said on his Facebook page that Coleman’s death was “so incredibly sad.”
Siebring said in early June, when Coleman was admitted to hospital, he sent him a message that his family relayed to him.
It read “Mike, likely without knowing it or intending to do so, you have continuously provided me with a beacon of what civilized disagreement can look like, both in public and private interactions. When faced with difficult situations, I have often quietly asked myself ‘How would Mike respond to this?’ Thank you for that, and thank you for being a friend.”
Rob Hutchins, the former mayor of Ladysmith who is currently a member of the board in the Cowichan Valley school district, said he worked on Coleman’s campaign when he ran federally for the Liberals in the Cowichan Valley riding in the 1980s.
He said Coleman was also mayor of Duncan for a number of the same years that he was mayor of Ladysmith, and he would often turn to the veteran politician for advice on municipal issues.
Hutchins said the community has lost a good man.
“Mike was a man with tremendous wisdom and had a wonderful sense of humour,” he said.
“He was a really good and decent person who did his part to make the Valley a better place to live. Mike deserves to be honoured for his many contributions to the community.”
Daniel Varga, president of the Cowichan Foundation, a non-profit society that Coleman helped form, that deals with the community and its needs, said Coleman’s death is a great loss for the community.
“Mike gave to the community in so many ways, including in politics and in helping found the Cowichan Foundation and other groups, and really believed in giving back to the community and supporting it,” Varga said.
“I feel fortunate to have called him my friend. As well as the Cowichan community, Mike was known across Canada and was very well connected. He was a really well respected man.”
Due to COVID restrictions there will be only a small family funeral at this time.
A larger memorial will be held when bigger public gatherings are once again allowed.
In lieu of flowers, people are asked to consider a donation to the Cowichan Foundation or a charity of their choice.