Melville Bertram (Mel) Couvelier

Melville Bertram (Mel) Couvelier

January 20, 1931 – May 30, 2011
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Melville Bertram Couvelier, who died peacefully on Monday, May 30, 2011 in Saanich at the age of 80. Predeceased by his parents George and Hilda and his sister Lynn, Mel will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 63 years, Mildred (Milly), sister Jill Mead (Godfrey), children Richard (Christine), Rodney (Debbie) and Melissa Safarik (Gordon), grandchildren Kerry (Graham), Christopher, Jennifer and Angelina, and great-grandson Daniel.

Born in Vancouver on January 20, 1931, Mel married Milly (Quakenbush) on September 17, 1948. After spending two years in Ocean Falls, where Mel worked in the offices of Crown Zellerbach, the family relocated to Vancouver and shortly thereafter Mel purchased the general store in Coal Harbour. Moving to Victoria in 1960, Mel owned and operated Maplewood Poultry Processors and later founded Couvelier’s Fine Apparel.

Mel’s political involvement began when he served as President of the B.C. Liberal Party in the early 1970s. Elected as a Saanich Alderman in 1974, Mel served as Mayor of Saanich from 1977 to 1986 during which time he was also President of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. As Mayor, Mel was instrumental in growing the business community in the municipality and promoting Vancouver Island during Expo 86. In 1986, Mel was elected to the B.C. Legislative Assembly, representing the riding of Saanich and the Islands as a Social Credit MLA. During his tenure as an MLA, Mel served as Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations, a position he used to balance the provincial budget, promote economic development and enhance B.C.’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Mel’s political career was marked by a tireless work ethic, a pragmatic approach to problem-solving, and a thoughtful desire to hear and understand all sides of a debate.

Throughout his life, Mel was known as a visionary community leader. In addition to serving as a politician, he was a Director of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, the Victoria Airport Authority, the Memorial Park Society, the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, a co-founder of the Victoria Technology Association and a past manager of the Victoria Symphony. In his later years, Mel continued his community involvement, enjoyed his time with friends and family in Sidney, and remained an ardent fan of his beloved Toronto Blue Jays.

A celebration of Mel’s life will be held at 1pm on June 17, 2011 at the Mary Winspear Centre (2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney, B.C., V8L 1W9). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made “In Memory of Mel Couvelier” to either of two organizations close to his heart: the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (505 Quayle Rd., Victoria, B.C., V9E 2J7) or the Mary Winspear Centre (at the above address). Condolences may be offered at www.mccallbros.com. The family would like to extend sincerest thanks to all of those who cared for Mel, especially during his stay in Palliative Care at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

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Messages of Condolence

  1. Lois Akam says:

    Dear Rick and family

    As you know, Rick, I had the great good fortune to work with your Dad at the Symphony and our working lives crossed again when he was Minister of Finance. Like everyone who worked with Mel, I had the greatest respect for his many abilities and, in a personal sense, for his caring and kindness in dealing with many often difficult people. Working with him was a privilege.

    You have my deepest sympathy at your loss…

    Lois

  2. Raj and Buncy Pagely and Family says:

    Our sincerce condolences to all of the family in the passing of a good friend of the Community, Mel. Mel was always there for us and supported us through many things.
    When he was Minister of Finance he came to our youngest sons’ wedding at the Sikh Temple and spoke so well. We were honored.
    Mel has given so much to the Community of Greater Victoria and BC. Wonderful man.

  3. Bill Vander Zalm says:

    Lillian and I extend our sincerest condolences to Milly and all the family. I had the privilige and honour of serving with Mel in government and I’ve always said and will continue to say “Mel was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with”. He will always be remembered for being very sincere, honest and smart. He will be missed but has no doubt found a still better place.
    Bill and Lillian Vander Zalm

  4. Maureen Trottier says:

    Yves and I extend our sincere condolences to Milly, Rod, Rick and Melissa and their families. It was an honour to work with Mel during the time he served the people of British Columbia as Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations and the constituents of Saanich and The Islands as their MLA. Mel never failed to challenge the status quo, always seeking new approaches to solve old problems, always bringing creative but practical solutions to the fore. He was fiercely proud of British Columbia and surprised many when he brought the Williamsburg Conference to Victoria. He leaves a remarkable legacy of public service and will be greatly missed.
    Maureen Trottier

  5. Cheryl Zurawski says:

    I had the honour of working for Mel as a public servant and a political volunteer. He taught me a lot about listening to people, hearing what they had to say and truly taking what it is people had to say into consideration when a decision needed to be made. Getting to know, ever so briefly, members of the Couvelier family only reinforced the respect I had for the man for whom I worked with more zeal and commitment than I knew I could muster. It was Mel who brought that out in me. I am forever grateful and wil cherish forever my memories of those times.

  6. Jo-Ann & Ray Williams says:

    Ray and I extend our sincere condolences to you Milly and your family. Our friendship began with Maple Wood Poultry and our company Williams Meats, and continued through politics in Saanich and the Islands. What wonderful times we had driving through the province and cheering on election night. How fortunate I was to work in his office and get to know this really remarkable, hardworking, and sincere man.

  7. Rita Roy says:

    I worked with Mel on Islands 86 and remember how capable and astute Mel was, while at the same time being one of the most empathetic people I have known. My sincere condolences to Millie and family. Mel was truly a remarkable man, I learned a lot from him and will always be grateful for his guidance.

  8. Ladi Holovsky says:

    My sincere condolences to Millie and all the family. I had the honour of working with Mel as a political volunteer and in later years as an architect for the Mary Winspear Centre. Mel will be remembered by me for being smart and sincere person who was always totally committed to project he was involved with.

  9. Patrick Palmer says:

    Milly and family, Susan and I are truly saddened to head about your loss. Because of where we live, it was almost accidental that we heard about it.

    Mel and I had our differences as you probably know, but they were always worked out in a respectful manner. We are unable to attend the memorial services, but I will say a prayer both for him and for you.

  10. merv mawson says:

    To Milly and Family, please accept our sincere sympathy at your loss. Mel was a true gentleman, and one of the nicest men I ever had occassion to meet. We met often when he served on Saanich council, first as a council member and also during his terms as Mayor. He epitomized the terms hardworking; honest politician; and clear thinker. I admired him very much. Merv and Nel Mawson

  11. Leo and Anne Letourneau says:

    Dear Milly,

    Condolences to you and your family. We still remember the good times with you and Mel in Beaver Cove.

    Fond regards,
    Leo and Anne

  12. Jim Hopkins says:

    Dear Couvelier’s:
    I was very sorry to hear of Mel’s passing and wish you my very best as I can imagine he was a “force” in your family.
    I knew Mr Couvelier as a new and junior director in the Ministry of Finance . I did not have a lot of contact with him as Minister but whenever there was an opportunity it was a specal occassion because one wanted to impress and knew he would listen deeply and ask the questions that cut the issue at hand to its substance. Mr Couvelier was a gentleman and one for whom one wanted to go the extra yard because he made you feel that he had brought you into his circle. You will know how special he was but please know for people who did not even know him that well he was outstanding.
    I hope your family enjoys the celebration of Mel’s life on the 17 th
    Yours truly
    Jim Hopkins

  13. Jim McNaught says:

    My sincere condolences. I first met Mel when I was Treasurer of the Liberal Party in Victoria in the early 70’s. I remember sitting down with Mel in a coffee shop in Oak Bay discussing his run for office as an MLA. Although I moved from Victoria to pursue opportunities in Asia I followed his career always respecting his integrity and dedication of service to the people. It can be said of Mel, he lived a life well worth living and he will long be rememberd.

  14. Vicki Kuhl says:

    What an amazing time we had on Saanich Council with Mel as Mayor. His determination to avoid urban sprawl and contain growth in a meaningful way continues to this day .

    On a personal level I was fortunate to have had his counsel as a political mentor during my years on Saanich Council and then as a fellow board member on the Victoria Airport Board. I feel fortunate also to have had paths cross with each of Mel’s immediate family and my most sincere condolences to each of you.

  15. Imre S. Otvos says:

    Dear Mrs. Couvelier and Family,

    Please, accept our deepest sympathy in your time of great sorrow.
    We, in the Hungarian Community here, will remember Mr. Couvelier, Mel, as a kind and principled man, and a friend, who did not shy away from making controversial decisions in support of fairness and justice, as indicated by his support for erecting the Memorial to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 near Saanich City Hall.
    May the love you feel for the one you lost and your memories be a source of comfort.

    Sincerely,

    Imre S. Otvos

  16. Wendy Gedney says:

    To the Couvelier family,

    My sincere condolences on your loss. Mel was such an icon as you know is so many people’s eyes. His beautiful smile, sincere and hard-working ethics for the good of so many was so commendable and admirable. Dad certainly enjoyed working as a councillor with Mayor Mel in Saanich in the day. He had such respect for him, his knowledge, experiences, sound judgement and ability to run a good council meeting…let alone his accolades later in provincial govt. He will be missed but his dedication and legacy will live on. Thank you, Mel!

  17. Lois McNabb says:

    Millie and family:

    My sincerest sympathy on the loss of Mel. During my many years in government he stands out as a minister who was great to work with and had a good working relationship with staff. He always had a twinkle in his eye. I was honoured when he attended my retirement lunch in December.

    Mel continued to serve until the end–a wonderful legacy of service. Thanks for sharing him with us.

    May your memories help you at this time.

    Lois McNabb

  18. Helen Rose (nee Paterson) says:

    Rod: My condolences on your Dad’s passing; I remember him well from our younger years. Take care through this difficult time. Love, Helen

  19. Janette Robinson-Bruce says:

    Dear Melissa,

    Just want to tell you how sorry I am to hear of the news of your Dad’s passing! I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you and your family.

    He was an amazing man and touched the lives of so many people in this province and beyond.

    I pray that the memories you hold dear, will bring you comfort now and always. Thinking of you for your Birthday too.

    Fondly,
    Janette

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