Former mayor Jim Quaife dies

City of Duncan officials have confirmed the passing of former Duncan Mayor Jim Quaife.

Quaife died at Cowichan District Hospital on the morning of Jan. 9 after a battle with cancer.

Predeceased by his brother Tony, he leaves behind his brothers John, Robert, David and sister Betty, his wife of almost 35 years, Marlene, and no fewer than five children and nearly twice that many grandchildren.

According to his blog, Quaife was born in Hastings Sussex, England. He came to Canada in 1939, returned to England in 1946 to settle his grandmother’s estate before returning to Canada in 1947, where he graduated from Central High in Guelph, Ontario.

In 1951 he moved to Australia and worked as a crane operator and high-rigger for a year before joining the Canadian Army and serving with the 2nd Btn. Queens Own Rifles of Canada for three years. During his stint with the armed forces Quaife did a 14-month tour of duty in Korea that saw three of his buddies killed.

He was posted to Victoria upon returning to Canada and obtained his release in 1956.

Quaife made his way to Cowichan and worked at the Crofton Pulp Mill for 10 years. He then ventured into local politics, running for Mayor of Duncan in 1967 and serving three terms.

"Jim Quaife is, in a very real way, part of the reason I got involved in public life. I was just a kid when he became mayor back in 1967, and he is the very first ‘public official’ that I can remember meeting," said North Cowichan councillor Al Siebring. "He was so gracious and down to earth that he made a real impression on me at that time. Not that I was very politically aware, but I sensed that he was someone who was committed to doing good for his community."

Siebring said in later years he had the opportunity to reconnect with Quaife after his own foray into local politics.

"I was elected to North Cowichan Council, and I mentioned some of those early impressions to him," Siebring recalled. "As usual, he was very humble about it all."

Among many others, Quaife is credited with forming Duncan Teen Town, the South Cowichan Recreation Commission, and designing the suspension bridge at Bright Angel Park. One thing stood out above the rest for him, however.

"My biggest thrill while Mayor of Duncan was hosting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Phillip for the ‘laying of the cornerstone’ for the new Senior’s & Library building in May of 1971. What an Honour!" Quaife wrote on his blog.

In January 1979, Quaife married Marlene and went on to a number of business ventures. In 2008 he took another stab at local politics, but lost to current Mayor Phil Kent.

According to his Facebook page, his favourite quote was "Live for today as though it were your last!" Quaife’s funeral is this Friday at 1 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

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