Hundreds of friends, family and former colleagues paid tribute to Bill Reid last Saturday at a celebration of life that was as large and as colourful as the man himself.
Reid, who passed away on May 28 at the age of 78, was a former MLA, provincial tourism minister, and long-serving executive director of the Cloverdale and District Chamber of Commerce.
More than 500 turned out to the Cloverdale Recreation Centre June 15, where Reid was remembered as a big-hearted community booster who loved his family, his city, and his province – in that order.
With an honour guard and a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace by Surrey Firefighters Pipes and Drums, and a list of speakers and guests that read like a political Who’s Who, it was a fitting send-off for Reid, who is survived by his wife Marion, daughters Cathy, Laurie, Sheila and Gail, and grandchildren.
“Bill was larger than life,” said deputy premier and Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman, a long-serving cabinet minister who was often on the receiving end of urgent phone calls from Reid, who was never afraid to work his many connections in local and senior levels of government on behalf of Cloverdale and Surrey.
If he was happy, Reid would chirp, “Rich, it’s Bill!” But sometimes, he’d hear a stern: “Coleman. It’s Bill Reid.” That meant he was displeased about something in the minister’s purview, and expected action.
Once, Reid had called saying, “You have to save Fraser Downs [racetrack and casino] in Cloverdale,” Coleman remembered. “Let me tell you, we fixed Cloverdale.”
One of Reid’s proudest accomplishments was being named Surrey’s Good Citizen of the Year two months ago – a distinction he earned in recognition of more than 50 years of community service.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts called Reid “a truly extraordinary human being” who was passionate, kind, and hard working.
“He really set an exemplary example of service and leadership for all of us to follow,” Watts said, speaking from a podium decorated with a large poster of a smiling Reid draped in a Canadian flag poncho.
Reid’s tenacity, she noted, “usually meant he ended up getting what he wanted.” Watts was among those on Reid’s distribution list for deliveries of freshly-caught crab – straight from the briny waters of Birch Bay, where the Reids keep a holiday home, a treasure trove of memories for family and friends.
“His legacy was everything he touched in the community and in our hearts,” she added.
Other speakers included former MP and MLA John Reynolds and former B.C. MLAs Kevin Falcon and Grace McCarthy, who spoke of Reid’s days as a member of the Social Credit government.
“He was a remarkable MLA,” she said, as the auditorium – festooned with red, white and blue balloons, colours that recalled his years as a Social Credit MLA (1983 to 1991) – exploded with applause.
Falcon, who met Reid as fellow Kinsmen and eventually entered provincial politics as a result of Reid’s encouragement, said Reid would have loved the tribute.
To Dave Woods, past commander of the Surrey RCMP’s Cloverdale/Port Kells District Office, Reid was a role model and friend whose influence was such that he managed to orchestrate an unofficial stop in Cloverdale by the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch relay, to the delight of more than 10,000 spectators, including school children from dozens of elementary and high schools.
“We bent the rules frequently for Bill,” Woods smiled. “I’m going to miss him and I think all of Cloverdale truly will.”
For friend Sherrold Haddad, Reid was simply, “A man whose legacy will be written in the history of our city, our country and our province.”