Jane Heffelfinger, a longtime fundraising champion and a keen supporter of the performing arts in Greater Victoria, especially the opera, died Wednesday night. She was 84.
The Oak Bay resident and 2000 Order of B.C. recipient co-founded Pacific Opera Victoria in 1979 with her husband, George, and other local supporters. While she worked on many committees advocating for health care, the arts and public broadcasting, opera was her passion right up until the end.
POV executive director Patrick Corrigan characterized the Heffelfingers – Jane is one of only two honourary lifetime members of the organization – as being like "parents" to the company staffers.
"Jane has throughout the company history has been the most tireless advocate and fundraiser and champion of Pacific Opera," he said Thursday. "It was her innate ability to understand that no dream was too big that made her the champion responsible for planting the seed to have the opera we have today."
While she had begun to slow down her active pace in recent months, Corrigan said, she attended shows right up until this spring. While she will be greatly missed, he said, Heffelfinger leaves behind a great legacy.
"Our organization today is deeply influenced by the culture she spearheaded. Thanks to her we have a very vibrant, forward-thinking organization."
Heffelfinger ran for public office in Victoria in 1984 for the Liberals, finishing third behind Progressive Conservative incumbent Alan McKinnon and the NDP's John Brewin.
She won Leadership Victoria's lifetime achievement award in 2008, having chaired a $12-million campaign for the Greater Victoria Hospitals Foundation, worked as a governor for the 1994 Commonwealth Games committee, and served on boards for the CBC and the Pearson College of the Pacific.
In 2000-01, she and Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton were among a group of individuals lobbying the City of Victoria for an arts centre to be built on the Inner Harbour. That project did not come to fruition, but their efforts helped lead to a refurbishing of the Royal Theatre, Causton said.
Heffelfinger's family will hold a private service this week. They are also planning a public celebration of her life for July. The details have not been finalized yet.