The passing of a local businessman is not the usual fodder for editorials, but Bob Wright was not just any local businessman.
Wright was the stuff of legends. A big man with big dreams, he built his multi-million dollar dynasty from humble beginnings, and he did it all from his home base in Oak Bay.
Wright was a man moved by passion. His love for fishing and the outdoors brought him to Victoria and he translated that love into a fishing business that bloomed into a marina that blossomed into fishing resorts, restaurants, tourist attractions and a vacation resort in the Bahamas.
Over the course of his career, Wright built an empire that took people out of their everyday existence and brought them closer to nature.
It was not without missteps though. Even after his death Wright is being criticized for his takeover of the Pedder Bay manufactured home park to create an RV resort and for removing orcas from the wild to populate Sealand of the Pacific, an aquarium that operated in Oak Bay for 11 years, until the death of Kelti Byrne, 20, a UVic marine biology student who fell into the whale pool and was dragged and submerged by the orcas until she drowned.
Talking about that event, even 20 years later, brought tears to Wright’s eyes.
One of Wright’s biggest assets was his giving nature, his willingness to lend a helping hand and the way he made time to talk to anyone who dropped by his office at the marina.
His love of nature and conservation – which was also his motivation to capture whales, thought of as predators at the time – was what moved him to make an $11 million donation to UVic for scientific research on climate change and led to the creation of the Bob Wright Centre for Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
The gift will go well beyond the boundaries of Greater Victoria and the university and will make a difference to the future of our oceans and potentially the planet as a whole. Not bad for a gumboot fisherman.