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Victoria radio host ‘Big D’ Dylan Willows succumbs to cancer

Dylan Willows, 45, co-hosted the morning show at Victoria radio station The Zone for 16 years
Two sold-out tribute concerts were held at the Royal Theatre in March in honour of Dylan Willows, pictured in July of 2023. ROB PORTER

Broadcaster Dylan Willows — known affectionately as Big D — died Tuesday due to complications from cancer. He was 45.

Willows, who co-hosted the morning show at Victoria radio station The Zone for 16 years, was diagnosed with Stage 4 uveal melanoma, a rare form of ocular cancer, in December.

The Claremont Secondary grad, who lost an eye to uveal melanoma when he was 25, returned to the airwaves briefly this year but was forced to step away from the station when his condition worsened.

“Dylan’s final days were spent as any other, filled with laughter; love; music and the occasional tease,” his family said in a statement Thursday.

Willows’ final broadcast was on Feb. 15. In March, he attended two sold-out tribute concerts at the Royal Theatre in his honour, both featuring bands he championed on-air during his career. They were his last public appearances.

The concerts — both of which sold out immediately — and a silent auction raised upwards of $120,000 for Willows and his family.

The generous response was a testament to the impact ­Willows had on the city’s arts and ­culture community, said Stephen Franke and Morgan Brooker, who produced the ­fundraisers.

“Dylan was a friend to all and a brother to local musicians and everyone working in music in Victoria,” Franke and Brooker said in a statement to the Times Colonist.

“He was the rock, a presence that was always there, a champion of this big community of musicians and bands he was a large part of creating. We’re all still shocked by his passing but this city is a bigger and better place with the impassioned legacy of work he leaves behind.”

Though he was born in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Willows always considered Victoria his hometown. Despite opportunities to return to Vancouver, where he began his career in radio and would have a bigger profile and better salary, he remained dedicated to Victoria and its music community.

He co-founded the V.I.C. Fest music festival in 2011 before joining a local ownership group that operated Sugar nightclub, now the Capital Ballroom, until 2019.

His previous battle with uveal melanoma, which affects approximately five in a million people annually, gave him a unique perspective on the disease. He used his professional platform to raise awareness whenever possible, and joined the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team in 2008.

In lieu of flowers, his family suggested donations to charities he supported, including The Zone’s annual toy drive — which provides toys and food hampers to families in need at Christmas — the Canadian Cancer Society, Cops for Cancer/Tour de Rock, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

His parting words during his final broadcast on The Zone became a sort of rallying cry for those who were supporting Willows, and were repeated on social-media posts by fans, friends, and wellwishers countless times on Thursday following the news of his death.

“It’s all about love,” Willows said.

“It really is, and that’s all we need to focus on. Please remember that today, and in the tough times.”

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