Mel Cooper can’t sit more than a few minutes in the lobby of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel before someone knows him.
Nods and smiles, small conversations, at 84, he remains a man about town.
Happily for he and wife Carmela, that town is again Oak Bay.
“The clock seems to move faster when you get older,” he says. After “right-sizing” to a home just across from the hotel about a year ago, Cooper can’t help sharing how happy the move made them.
“We’ve been doing that now, recognizing our age, but we’re back in Oak Bay and loving it,” Cooper says. “We feel really comfortable in Oak Bay. It’s a lovely area to walk. I don’t golf but I love the smell of a golf course and I can do that.”
He’d lived in Oak Bay for 20 years on Beach Drive.
“When we got together, we started to move around and finally out of Oak Bay to Wedgewood (Estates),” he says. “It was nice up there, but at our age and preparing for the future, we figured let’s sell and get back to Oak Bay.”
It appears to be his only concession to age, partaking in pilates in a studio above Oak Bay Avenue and still spending ample time in his office at Telus.
This marks his10th year as chair of the Telus Victoria Community Board.
“I have the freedom to give, through the board, Telus donations to the community,” he says.
They’ve issued $3.5 million for projects throughout the region, not even counting the $1 million put toward Jeneece Place.
“That is a wonderful place, because it was the dream of young Jeneece,” Cooper says.
Small lapel pins indicate Coopers membership to the Order of BC (1982) and Order of Canada (1989). Tonight, the local philanthropist and businessman will be awarded The Governors’ Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
“You should feel good if people say nice things about you. More than anything I appreciate the people who go out of the way to say thank you,” he says.
A broadcaster by trade, Cooper started his career in Vancouver before moving to Victoria to purchase CFAX.
“I still have radio in my blood,” he says.
So are leadership and phlinathropy.
For Expo 86 in Vancouver, Cooper took the helm of marketing and revenue, raising more than $174 million in corporate donations. He was instrumental bringing the Commonwealth Games to Victoria in 1994. Cooper served on the boards of several charitable organizations, both local and national, including the David Foster Foundation and Salvation Army. He served more than 30 years as president of CFAX Santas Anonymous.
Cooper received an honorary life membership from United Way to commemorate his dedication to the organization – he served on the campaign cabinet from 2002 to 2006.
“Mel is a great community leader and is very deserving of this award,” said Frank Bourree, chair of the board of governors. “The impact he had on this community as both a businessman and an active volunteer on countless charities and boards is profound.”
The Chamber presents awards in 13 categories during an event tonight at the Fairmont Empress, including the Governors’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
“If I’m not doing things to help the people, I feel I’m letting myself down, letting the community down,” Cooper says.
A real promotions man, Cooper, can’t help leaning into his next big gig – a gala celebration of David Foster.
“The real legend is David Foster. We’re going to give him a Legend Award,” Cooper says, gesturing to the nearby David Foster Foundation Theatre, which he helped establish. They plan to name Foster a Legend during a June 30 event that will parlay into funds for longtime Cooper cause, Canadian College of Performing Arts in Oak Bay.
“I’m having fun helping,” Cooper says. “I keep going as long as I can contribute. When I can’t contribute to the conversation or what we’re trying to do, that’ll be the signal I should move on.”