Well-known auto dealer Moray Keith speaks at the celebration of life for Tom Harris, held Saturday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (The News Bulletin)

Community celebrates the life of Tom Harris

Businessman remembered for all the ways he positively impacted people in Nanaimo

When Tom Harris shook someone’s hand, he meant it, both in business and in friendship.

On Saturday, Nanaimo gathered to reflect on those things, remember Harris, and honour his impact and legacy.

Harris, a well-known businessman, died unexpectedly last month at age 67. His celebration of life was held Saturday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

About 1,300 people in attendance heard not only about Harris’s successes with his auto dealerships and cellphone business, but also about his devotion as a husband, father and grandfather, his loyalty and trust in his friends, his philanthropy, his leisure pursuits and his zest for life.

“He was a friend to this entire Nanaimo community. His presence here, the life he lived here is an integral part of this community’s spirit and its character,” said Bruce Williams, director of ceremonies.

Harris’s daughter Stephanie McLagan recited a poem of her own composition and Michael and Tony Harris together delivered a eulogy. Tony said the family will carry his father’s spirit with them forever, and are grateful, proud and at peace.

“Dad loved people and he loved life. He made the most of every day. He made the most of his interactions, his relationships, his friendships. We’ve had so, so many people share stories and anecdotes with us about how he was kind or generous or helpful to them,” said Tony.

Tom’s friend Michael O’Connor said Tom made people feel good about themselves and believe in themselves.

“If there’s something I’ve learned from Tom, it was that life was ready and waiting for you and could be your oyster, so go out and enjoy it all the way,” O’Connor said.

Greg Marriette, partner at Tom Harris Cellular, told a story recalling the 2008-09 recession and how he had suggested that the company curtail its contributions to charity, but Tom rebuffed him, suggesting that charity was even more important at that time.

“When you think of Tom, I encourage you to reflect on all the wonderful things about his life and how he lived with passion, zeal, kindness and generosity and let that inspire you to be a better person,” Marriette said.

Dave Hart, a friend and neighbour, said Tom’s legacy is that of a wonderful father, a man who cherished his friends and someone who was a pillar of the community and the province. Hart gave several examples of his friend’s wisdom and philosophy.

“Tom would say, our lives are not a dress rehearsal. Live it to the fullest, and he did,” Hart said. “Too short, but certainly a life well lived.”


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