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Oak Bay loses ‘incredibly likeable human’ who brought vibrancy to village

Ken Agate died Monday in hospice after a battle with cancer
Then-mayor Nils Jensen pins the first Oak Leaf Award on Ken Agate, one of the longest-serving volunteers with the district, in 2014. (Black Press Media file photo)

Ken Agate – the man known for bringing classic cars to The Avenue and vibrancy to the village – died Monday (Sept. 11) after a battle with cancer.

Agate died “peacefully and gently” in hospice, said longtime friend Joan Stein, who was at his side.

She praised the loving, excellent care and attention Agate received in his months with Victoria Hospice.

“Everybody loved Ken, people loved Ken, he was a good man,” Stein said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Mayor Kevin Murdoch, outlining a couple of the larger impacts Agate had on the community. The district honoured Agate during its annual recognition event in March. Other recognitions include Oak Bay’s Honour of the Oak Leaf in 2014.

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In ailing health and 79 years old, Agate carefully handed the wheel of his Collector Car Show to Ron Dempsey and Tony Joe. He founded the show in 1999 around the same time he was among those who created a fledgling Tourism Oak Bay.

Agate also owned The Blethering Place, a restaurant on The Avenue where The Oaks is now, from 1981 to 2011.

“He was also just such a genuinely nice, kind person … an incredibly likeable human being in every way,” Murdoch said.

The mayor is among the longtime Oak Bay residents who fondly remember the restaurant that started small. He recalls going with his grandmother and seeing it grow over the decades.

“It grew into a proper restaurant over time,” he recalled. “It became a real anchor of the village, which didn’t really have a restaurant presence before.”

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Former mayor Christopher Causton remembers Agate as “the guy who lived above the shop in Oak Bay” and in a very cool way.

“He would come down from his apartment when the restaurant was open in his PJs, and just get a coffee and wander around and talk to customers in his PJs and dressing gown. That was classic Ken,” Causton said.

Agate put the same kind of care and attention to the car show, he recalled, arriving early ahead of any car and directing all the traffic to line up exactly as he planned it.

He loved dressing up, Causton said, confident Agate’s favourite – certainly popular among car show and restaurant attendees – was the British officer outfit complete with truncheon, helmet and uniform.

“He called himself the London Bobby,” Causton said. “He was great fun … a classic Oak Bay character who lived above the shop.”

Do you have memories of Ken Agate to share? Email

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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