Port Alberni mourns former councilor who died in accident in New Zealand

Helen Poon served on city council and ran unsuccessfully for the British Columbia Liberals in the Mid-Island Pacific Rim in the 2020 election. She died on January 4.

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A former Port Alberni councilor described as a cigar-smoking, single-malt whiskey-drinking car enthusiast is being mourned after her death in a car crash in New Zealand.

Helen Poon, 34, who served on city council for one term and ran unsuccessfully for the British Columbia Liberals in the Mid-Island Pacific Rim in the 2020 election, died Jan. 4 after suffering Critical injuries in December 1 two-car crash. 30.

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Mayor Sharie Minions said the councilwoman left an indelible mark on the community, not only as a member of the female-dominated council from 2018 to 2022, but as a community member and “constant voice for progress.”

Poon was instrumental in the city’s $5 million acquisition of the 17.5-acre waterfront Somass Lands, the former Western Forest Products factory site, equivalent to about 17 average city blocks. city ​​that had remained empty since 2017, and several other key projects that set the tone. course for “transformative change” in Port Alberni, the mayor said on social media.

Poon, who was from Vancouver, visited Port Alberni and Ucluelet with a car club in 2017, fell in love with the city’s potential and bought a house and the Kingsway Pub and Hotel to renovate in 2018.

She became embroiled in controversy as a city councilor at that same pub when she failed to obtain proper development permits for future renovations.

“Helen was a person who can only be described as iconic,” Minions said. “She was indescribably unique, incredibly funny and deeply caring.”

Poon’s belief in Port Alberni’s potential was “unparalleled,” the mayor said.

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Poon, the first transgender person on Port Alberni council, was elected in 2019 as one of four Vancouver Island councilors to serve on the executive of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

During her campaign speech, she said she was uniquely positioned to serve as UBCM director because she had both urban and rural experience, noting that she was born and raised in Vancouver and trained as a lawyer in England.

One of his many interests was classic cars: he had owned 1970s Lincoln Continental Jaguars, Bentleys, a 1937 Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, an Austin Mini, a 1938 MG TA convertible, a Lotus Seven convertible from 1960, an emerald green Dodge Viper, a Ferrari Mondial and a Porsche 930.

Poon’s passion for classic cars wasn’t just a hobby: “It was a reflection of his zest for life and his love of connecting with others,” said Minions, who called Poon a friend. “Your loyalty from him, kindness from him and unwavering support from him were a source of strength to many, including myself, during difficult times.”

Poon told a driving publication that you have to drive as many cars as possible to find the ones you want to keep.

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Dave Hord, co-founder of Classic Car Adventures, a collective of classic car enthusiasts who gather for car events, said anyone involved in the organization’s events knew or knew of Poon and his “eclectic” car collection.

“She would have driven a fantastic vehicle, although perhaps not the ‘right’ choice for the route and weather; she’d probably dressed in a fur if it was cold, and probably offering you a whiskey or a cigarette if the weather was right. At the end of the day we had arrived at the hotel,” Hord wrote to clients.

In her memorial, Hord asked members to call a friend they had vowed to spend more time with “when life slows down” and share that glass of whiskey, wine or water and “toast to Helen Poon.”

Hord said he had known Poon for a decade and that she worked tirelessly in her business and political life for those less fortunate.

“I know I’m a better person for knowing her.”

Poon’s parents and family were at his side in New Zealand when he died, he said.

BC United leader Kevin Falcon called the news of Poon’s death “devastating.”

Falcon said on the social media site

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“She will be deeply missed by our entire BCU team,” he said.

Poon had promised that if elected in the Mid-Island Pacific Rim, she would donate her MLA salary of more than $100,000 to charity, but ended up losing to the NDP’s Josie Osborne.

Poon, who had been involved in work promoting affordable housing in Vancouver’s downtown east, said at the time that she wanted to contribute to the community. She reportedly became independently wealthy after success in the Vancouver real estate market.

As part of their advocacy work, it was essential to challenge the status quo and pursue one’s vision with absolute conviction, determination and skill.

Poon was visiting friends in New Zealand at the time of his death.

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