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Graeme Roberts, former Nanaimo mayor, dies at 89

Graeme Roberts, a former Nanaimo mayor, died at his Brentwood Bay home on Saturday at the age of 89.
Former Nanaimo mayor Graeme Roberts died at his Brentwood Bay home on Saturday. VIA FAMILY

Graeme Roberts, a former Nanaimo mayor, died at his Brentwood Bay home on Saturday at the age of 89.

As mayor of Nanaimo from 1984 to 1986, he welcomed Prince Charles and Princess Diana to the city to help him proclaim Nanaimo’s new slogan, “The Harbour City,” and helped to transformed the waterfront through development.

“While we mourn the loss of Mr. Roberts, we also reflect on the legacy that he left behind as mayor of Nanaimo, which has helped make Nanaimo the spectacular Harbour City it is today,” Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said.

Roberts was born in Victoria on July 9, 1931, to parents Douglas and Gwenyth Roberts. He grew up in B.C.’s capital until around age 12, when he and his mother moved to England, where his father was living. He returned to Victoria after graduating from secondary school.

After the possible return in April of cancer, Roberts declined further medical treatment and died at home Saturday morning with his wife of 31 years at his side.

He was a “salesman extraordinaire,” said wife Kathryn Roberts, earning a lifetime achievement award from the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. for his contribution to the automotive industry as a car dealer for nearly two decades and as chairman of the board of directors of the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia.

He served on several other boards, including the Victoria Airport Authority and Air Canada Jazz, and was a former chairman of the British Columbia Public Service Commission.

Roberts volunteered his time with the B.C. GamesSociety for over 25 years, attending events in about 40 communities across the province.

He made an impression on those around him with his sincerity and sense of humour, said B.C. Games Society president and CEO Alison Noble.

“The society and all the people he’s touched over the years will miss him greatly. He was just a fabulous man,” she said.

Roberts continued to keep himself busy after retirement, appearing in commercials and becoming a hand model for a commemorative stamp. His most memorable spot was as a “bungee jumping grandpa,” which required a stunt double,” Kathryn Roberts said.

“Graeme was a man who lived life to the fullest, was ever present in the moment and enjoyed interacting with every walk of life. He would walk into the room and make you feel that you were the only one he was talking to,” she said.

He knew how to find common ground with others and how to draw people out, she said.

The couple met in 1989, after Kathryn answered a personal ad Roberts placed in the Times Colonist.

“I got the job, and I’m glad I did. Because it’s been fabulous,” she said.

He is survived by his two daughters, Pam Roberts and Wendy Bouma, four grandchildren and his wife. His son Fred Wenman died in 2016.

The family is planning a celebration of life at a later date.