Construction supervisor who oversaw major Victoria projects dies in workplace accident

A veteran construction supervisor who oversaw major projects at Bear Mountain Resort, Oak Bay High and several Victoria highrises has died following a workplace accident.

John Scheeren, a superintendent for Campbell Construction, was struck on Nov. 30 by debris that fell several storeys from a 20-storey condominium under construction, the Yates on Yates. The unsecured material was blown from the building at 848 Yates St. during a major windstorm, said Scheeren’s youngest son, Robbie Scheeren.

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The 64-year-old was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital with traumatic injuries and died on Dec. 21.

Robbie Scheeren said safety measures failed on the day his father was critically injured. John Scheeren had been alerted that debris was being blown from the building and had gone to the sidewalk where it had landed to investigate when another piece fell several storeys onto him.

“The first time someone saw something come off, they should have made sure that nothing else could come off the building,” Robbie Scheeren said.

WorkSafeBC said it is conducting an investigation.

Robbie said as the family held vigil at his father’s bedside, he knew his father fought to survive so he could say goodbye.

His family said there were few street corners in downtown Victoria where one couldn’t see a building John Scheeren helped build.

“He loved his trade and he loved his career,” said his wife of 42 years, Lesley Scheeren.

John Scheeren, a certified carpenter, got his start in the Victoria construction industry in 1975. Even after 45 years, there was no talk of retirement, Robbie said. He would joke with much younger colleagues that he’d retire when they did.

Len Barrie Sr. headhunted Scheeren from Campbell Construction, convincing him to work directly for Bear Mountain Master Partnership as the golf resort was being built starting in 2002. Scheeren oversaw construction of the Fairways Hotel on the Mountain, Jack’s Place and the Finlayson Reach condo building.

Barrie said Scheeren was extremely detail-oriented and hard working. He was demanding of his crew but that ensured safety and top-quality construction, Barrie said.

Scheeren advocated for education in the trades and was proud to have a hand in building the trades and applied technology building at Vancouver Island University. In 2013, the Vancouver Island Construction Association gave Scheeren a Gold Seal certification that recognizes expertise and commitment to the construction industry.

Scheeren was born in ­Saanich on June 28, 1956 to parents Peter and Shirley Scheeren. He has two sisters and a younger brother who, at age nine, was killed by a drunk driver near Six Mile Pub.

Scheeren’s parents bought a home in Langford and he went to Elizabeth Fisher Junior High school, which eventually became part of Belmont Secondary School. That’s where he met his wife of 42 years, Lesley.

She said Scheeren took her to her first school dance. The two married in 1978 when Scheeren was 21 and Lesley was 19.

In high school, Scheeren was the type of guy who was friends with everyone, Lesley said. That friendly nature continued all his life — his wife said he always took the time to get to know people and ask how they were doing, whether it was the server at his favourite restaurant, his son’s friends or members of his construction crew.

“He talked to everybody, and he cared about everybody,” ­Lesley said.

Sons JR and Robbie were born in 1980 and 1982, respectively. Scheeren and Lesley moved from Langford to Metchosin in 2007 when they bought a five-acre farm.

Robbie said the two most important things in his father’s life were family and work.

“Work sometimes stepped in front of [family], but only to better the family,” Robbie said, noting that his father worked to put his two sons through private school and take the family on nice vacations.

In May 2011, tragedy struck Scheeren’s family again when his parents died in a murder suicide. Investigators said Peter Scheeren, 77, killed his 73-year-old wife, Shirley, and then took his own life inside their Langford home.

Scheeren’s most treasured role was as grandfather to Robbie’s two-year-old son, Brooks. He and Lesley looked forward to “nana and papa days” when they would take Brooks to Butchart Gardens or Butterfly Gardens.

Robbie was in tears knowing that his son is too young to have any memories of his grandfather.

Lesley said the family would like to hold a celebration of life for Scheeren at the Metchosin farm when COVID restrictions allow it. She said her husband would want to be celebrated amid music, cooking and ­laughter.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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