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Bob McMinn, ‘the heart,’ of the Highlands turns 100

McMinn was the first mayor of the West Shore community
Bob McMinn said he is a “lucky duck” getting to spend the last 70 years living in the the Highlands. (Thomas Eley/News Staff)

The Highlands and its first mayor, Bob McMinn, are so close they could share DNA. McMinn celebrated turning 100 on May 18 in the district he helped establish in 1993.

He celebrated his birthday at the Highlands District Community Hall.

“I feel quite euphoric,” McMinn said.

McMinn was more than a beloved civil servant but also a dedicated protector of the urban forest, Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said.

“He is very much the heart of the Highlands,” Williams said.

Williams was at the birthday to dedicate McMinn and said he knows his predecessor’s immense legacy. A long line of well-wishers and celebrants queued up to meet with McMinn. Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford and Sooke, met him while working in former B.C. Premier John Horgan’s office, door-knocking.

“We do a lot of door-knocking, and it can be a bit scary and intimidating. But when someone in their 90s is knocking on doors, it puts things into perspective,” Parmar said.

McMinn founded the Highland Ratepayers Association in 1967, later becoming the Highlands District Community Association. In 1979, he helped establish the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS).

In 2010, McMinn, in his 80s, led an online fundraising effort for a conservation project. The initiative allowed people worldwide to “buy” square-metre parcels of the WMIYETEN nature sanctuary, supporting its preservation.

“There was one man who was not going to rest until that was stopped. And that was our friend, Mr. Highlands,” Parmar said.

McMinn initially donated $100,000 to the challenge and later added $300,000 through a mortgage for the land purchase.

Born in Toronto in 1924, he moved to Vancouver within six months and left Canada shortly after.

He spent most of his time outside of Canada in Somerset, England, and served in India and Palestine during the Second World War. He returned after the war in 1954 with his wife, Nancy.

“My dad and mom Nancy came to Victoria on their honeymoon in preparation for moving here,” David McMinn said.

Tom Sampson, elder of the Tsartlip Nation, said McMinn made the urban forest surrounding Victoria and Langford’s ever-growing, sprawling cityscape possible.

McMinn shares his birthday with George Bush, Truman Capote and Vancouver-born architect Arthur Erickson. On the same day McMinn was born, the last rugby union game at the Olympics was played, and the Hawaiian volcano Kīlauea erupted.

McMinn said he is fortunate to have lived the last 70 years on Vancouver Island and that his sharpness at the age of 100 can be attributed to the natural beauty of the Highlands.

“I am a lucky duck,” he said.

Former Highlands Mayor Bob McMinn reads the decleration that was presented to him by current Highlands Mayor Ken Williams.(Thomas Eley/News Staff)

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