Former mayor remembered for service to Mission

G.W. Harris was instrumental in starting up the Mission Foundation in 1987

Bill Harris

One of Mission’s former mayors passed away recently, leaving a legacy of community service.

George William (Bill) Harris was born April 19, 1921 in Winnipeg, Man., and passed away April 12 at the Dr. Stuart Pavilion at Mission Memorial Hospital.

In his professional life before politics, Harris was involved in the credit union industry, said his daughter Geraldine Mapstone.

Harris was first elected to District of Mission council as an alderman in 1972, and became mayor in 1973, a post he held until 1979. He stepped away from municipal politics for a few years, and was then re-elected as councillor in 1984 and 1985 before permanently stepping down.

“He was easy to work with,” said former chief administrative officer Norm Cook. “He was always making Mission a better place. He cared about Mission.”

Cook remembers a direct man, but not rude, who was very active in developing the Norrish Creek water supply system that is still in use today.

However, it was his involvement with the Mission Foundation where he gained a majority of his local recognition.

Harris was one of the founders, alongside Cook, Gordon Ruley, John Weisgerber, Albert McMahon, and G.W. Walker. The non-profit charitable organization collects funds from donors and invests them, using the income to benefit the citizens of Mission in the fields of education, recreation, culture and the humanities.

Foundation director Peter Robson first met Harris in 1962 when the newly arrived doctor started playing in a regularly held poker game on North Railway Avenue that was started by Harris and a few others in 1948.

They gathered every second Friday, and the maximum bets never exceeded 15 cents, recalled Robson, who played for 32 years.

“Bill was notorious as a poker player,” he remembered with a laugh. “He played good and bad hands. But he was a gentleman. He was quiet and he considered every position. He would disagree with you, but not rudely.

“I liked him. He was a nice man.”

Don Calnek, another regular on the foundation’s board of directors, said Harris brought him into the organization in 1994.

“I always found Bill to be a humble sort of character. You had to respect him just because there was absolutely no subterfuge in the background. He definitely had a heart for the people of the district.”

At his request, no service was held, and any donations were asked to be made to the Mission Community Foundation. To contact them, call 604-826-5322 or visit www.missioncommunityfoundation.org.

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