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Island auto entrepreneur remembered for humble spirit, perseverance in business

Galaxy Motors owner Phil Dagger passes away in North Saanich home at age 69
Amy Jones and her uncle, Phil Dagger, take a break outside an RV at Galaxy Motors. Dagger, who built the company from a single dirt lot on Island Highway to a multi-store entity on Vancouver Island, passed away earlier this week. (Black Press Media file photo)

A man known as a pillar in Vancouver Island’s business community is being mourned this week in Greater Victoria and beyond.

Phil Dagger, who came from modest beginnings in the UK to pursue a passion for cooking as a chef in Canada, then later made a splash in the automotive business with Galaxy Motors, passed away sometime Sunday or Monday at his home in North Saanich.

He was 69.

The massive Canadian flag at Galaxy RV Victoria in Langford flies at half mast in honour of owner Phil Dagger, who passed away recently. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)

Dagger’s niece Amy Jones, who worked for the company for 20 years including as assistant manager and controller, said he died on the couch next to his dog while watching TV.

A gregarious yet humble man who loved to entertain and cared a lot about his staff, Galaxy customers and the various communities in which they do business, Dagger always treated people with respect and did his best to support and motivate them, Jones said.

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“His business grew and was very successful because of repeat customers,” she said.

Not only were customers treated well and with respect, Jones added, part of the mutual respect came from the fact Dagger and Galaxy supported the community in other ways, from doing food drives for the Goldstream Food Bank to sponsoring minor sports teams and other charitable causes.

“It was always important for us to give back,” she said of the company. “He was very humble and knew where he came from … he knew he was blessed and he wanted to share the wealth, so to speak. For him, it was ‘never forget where you come from.’”

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After coming to Canada, Dagger worked as a chef at Jasper Park Lodge – one of his fondest memories, Jones said – and later opened his own eatery, FBs, in Brentwood Bay. The experience saw him work long days and ultimately didn’t end well, but it gave him a taste of running his own business.

He got into the car business in the 1980s as a salesman at the former Empress Motors (now Wheaton) on Douglas Street. While he didn’t set the world on fire in that element, he knew he had to be his own boss.

Dagger borrowed $10,000 from his mother when no one else would loan him the money. He purchased the already existing Galaxy Motors in Colwood in 1990 – Jones recalled visiting him at the dirt car lot when she was 12 – and slowly, but surely grew the business.

Subsequent locations sprung up around the region and ultimately closed, as Galaxy expanded its Colwood superstore on Island Highway and moved into Duncan, Nanaimo, Courtenay and Langley, which has since closed. A large new superstore opened last year on West Shore Parkway in Langford, as did the massive Galaxy RV Victoria store nearby, and a Parksville RV dealership opened the doors last month.

Dagger loved life, with food and travel high on his list, Jones said. While Hawaii was a favourite destination, he also travelled to India, Ethiopia, Laos and Cambodia.

“He loved visiting places off the beaten path, immersing himself in the culture, meeting the people,” Jones said.

But home was equally important, she added. He loved his family, tooling around in his MGB, loved his dogs and could be found many Saturdays at the lot manning the barbecue for his staff.

“He did a lot for me and my kids,” said Jones, who grew up with Dagger playing a key role in her life. “Phil, although he was my uncle, he was more like my dad, my kids were like his grandchildren.”

Dagger is survived by Jones, her husband and their two children, and nephew Mark Jones. Janice Jones, Dagger’s sister, passed away 10 years ago.

No funeral has yet been planned, but a service will likely happen sometime in September, Jones said.


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