Funeral held for former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen

Owen died Sept. 30 at Point Grey Private Hospital after an eight-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

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One of Vancouver’s most influential mayors was remembered for his kindness, empathy and as a “hero” to his children at a memorial Saturday.

The celebration of life for Philip Owen was held at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Shaughnessy Anglican Church.

It was a private service but can be viewed online on the church’s Facebook site  or its YouTube site .

His children — Lise Owen Struthers, Christian Owen and Andrea Owen — delivered tributes to their dad.

Reverend Elizabeth Ruder-Celiz said Owen was a lifelong member of the church community and would have been pleased that so many people came out to “celebrate his life with joy” and say goodbye.

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His daughter Lise described him an “unwavering” follower of God, and said he learned to listen to what matters in life during his daily prayers. He was compassionate, humble, kind and had empathy for all people, she said.

“Doing nothing was not in his lexicon, but rather thinking about the other guy was always his motto,” she said. “He loved this city and serving all its citizens.”

Owen’s son Christian, his voice shaking, said his dad talked a lot about his heroes, including his grandfather, Walter Owen. From his grandfather, Philip Owen learned his credo: “That everyone in this world deserves dignity regardless of their station,” said Christian.

“In the last years of his life, he was a man who was at peace,” Christian said.

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Undated handout photo of Philip Owen, the mayor of Vancouver from 1993 to 2002, who died on Sept. 30, 2021, aged 88 at Point Grey Private Hospital from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
Undated handout photo of Philip Owen, the mayor of Vancouver from 1993 to 2002, who died on Sept. 30, 2021, aged 88 at Point Grey Private Hospital from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. PNG

Owen died Sept. 30 at Point Grey Private Hospital after an eight-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 88.

His family said he “passed away peacefully.”

“As a family we have always been proud of our father,” said Christian. “He loved this city, every part of it, and you could see this in how he found the right balance, even when it came to the toughest issues. He was a gentleman and a devoted Vancouverite, right to the end.”

Owen’s youngest daughter Andrea said her dad had an “innate ability to see each person” because he valued the experiences of others.

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Owen will be remembered by many as the champion of the Four Pillars approach to drug addiction, which emphasizes prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. His work led to the establishment of Insite, North America’s first supervised injection site.

“He had a deep resolve to get the job done, especially if he thought it was the right thing to do,” said Andrea in her tribute Saturday.

She described her father as their mother’s best friend and a thoughtful man who cherished family.

“Not many people know how funny he really was,” she said, recalling how he would say a car runs better when it’s clean.

Owen was born March 11, 1933, in Vancouver. He was elected to the park board in 1978, elected to city council in 1986, and in 1993 was elected mayor on the Non-Partisan Association slate, serving three terms.

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Ironically, Owen’s support for the Four Pillars approach was one of the reasons the NPA replaced him as its mayoral candidate in the 2002 election.

He retired from public life, but behind the scenes, continued to support the Four Pillars. Owen’s son formed a foundation, Safe Sites Save Lives, which paid for a supervised injection site at 327 Carrall St. before the concept was legalized at Insite on East Hastings Street.

Owen is survived by his wife Brita, his three children, Chris, Lise and Andrea, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Owen was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2008.

— With files from John Mackie

ticrawford@postmedia.com

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