Former Oak Bay councillor remembered

Peter Bunn leaves a legacy in community

  • Mar. 18, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Former Oak Bay city councillor Peter Bunn is remembered for his passion and dedication for the community.

For 12 years, Rod Prewett and his friend Peter Bunn met on Thursday at 2 p.m.

In the early part of their friendship, they would meet for Tim Horton’s coffee – Bunn’s favourite – and visit various development sites, which interested the former general contractor.

But once Bunn lost his driver’s licence, the pair would get in Prewett’s car and go for drives.

“He loved to go out to Metchosin,” said Prewett. “In fact that was the very last place I took him. I think the reason he liked it here was because parts of Metchosin reminded him of the English countryside.”

The former Oak Bay councillor (1978 to 1996) and 15-year Greater Victoria School Board member and chair died on March 11.

Bunn was born June 27, 1922 in Croydon, England.

“Dad was an eminently practical man,” said one of Bunn’s three children, Pauline Shepherd. “He faced life and its problems squarely and always looked for the most constructive and practical solution. His clarity of vision was something that served him very well in all aspects of his life and marked him out among his friends and colleagues.”

Prewett first met Bunn, a recent widower, when he was trying to achieve his vision of a standard market seniors housing project in Oak Bay, which became Carlton House.

“My first impression was that he was a very stern but caring man, and a really smart guy,” said Prewett. “He was also very determined. I think that’s one of his biggest traits.”

In addition to championing various government subsidized housing projects, Bunn was known as one of the great advocates around the council table, Prewett said.

“The project for underground wiring in Oak Bay Village was something (Bunn) pushed for,” he said.

Issues of wheelchair accessibility on Oak Bay Avenue also became a priority for Bunn, when his wife Doreen had trouble accessing public washrooms. The entryways were eventually widened.

“I had the highest respect for him,” said former Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton, who served on council with Bunn. “When I became mayor, when Peter was in his last year, one of the first things I did actually was to re-name the public works yard, the Peter Bunn Public Works Yard.”

Causton said Bunn was committed to all aspects of public works in the municipality which is why it was important to him for the yard to have Bunn’s name.

“Anything to do with roads, sewers, or sidewalks, Peter was your man,” said Causton. “And he wasn’t only very good at it but he loved it and took great pride in how things looked.”

In addition to Bunn’s passion for public works, Causton added, “he knew the value of a dollar,” and made sure the residents of Oak Bay got the best value they could.

Around the council table, Bunn wasn’t one for lengthy philosophical conversations, Causton said he got straight to the point.

“The question was only ‘what’s good for the community’ and secondly ‘let’s get on and do it,’” Causton said. “The Committee B meetings (where he served) would last all of 15 minutes, which is pretty rare nowadays.”

Though current Mayor Nils Jensen didn’t serve on council with Bunn, the two met when Jensen decided to run for mayor.

“I sought his wise counsel on various occasions,” Jensen said. “What I’ll remember most about him was that he liked to debate and was full of good ideas, and being a lawyer, I really liked that aspect of him. He didn’t shy away from having a good discussion or debate, and in the end that is what community is all about, having good discussions with others in the community and he was really good at that.”

While Bunn battled around the council table later in life, he was no stranger to battles as a young man.

In 1942 at the age of 19, he enlisted in the army and served with the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers.

He served in the tank division throughout the North Africa campaign and in Italy and ended his tour in the Second World War in Austria.

“I’m one of the very few people who survived a tank being hit three times,” said Bunn in his contribution to The Memory Project. “I was hit at El Alamein. It didn’t catch fire and we sat there waiting to be blown apart all day and luckily we weren’t. And we were able to be towed away at night. … I had a very long time on a tank, and you know, not many people survived being hit three times on three separate occasions.”

Bunn and his wife emmigrated to Canada in 1949. Bunn built a house in Oak Bay for the family, the first of many the former building contractor left his mark on in the community. Their three children Shepherd, Simon Bunn and Jill Zaruck, and grandchildren still live in Victoria. A memorial gathering will be held in the Sports Room of the Windsor Pavilion on April 5 from 4 to 6 p.m.

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