It has often been said that it is a gift to be a Rotarian—-to grow to know others in the Rotary family as we share experiences that transform our communities, our world, and ultimately ourselves. What we aren’t often told is that along the way during our Rotary journey we will lose some of those friends that have become like family, those larger than life humanitarians whose passionate advocacy for Rotary has left its imprint on countless lives. This September, many in District 5020 and throughout the larger Rotary world learned of the passing of Past District Governor Michael Procter, a long standing member of the Rotary Club of Peace River (1986-2003) and the Rotary Club of Qualicum Beach (2003-2023).
I first grew to know Michael as a member of our District 5020 District Council when I was serving as District Trainer, and Michael was Assistant Governor and soon to become District Governor (2014-2015). We worked closely preparing his presidents-elect when he was District Governor Elect….and I came to recognize a leader determined to support clubs in their efforts to make a difference in the lives of others. I have such admiration and affection for this man who became a colleague, a mentor, and a friend.
So just who was this man, Michael Procter, who gave over many of his waking hours to Rotary? A transplanted Albertan, he moved to the quiet village of Bowser on Vancouver Island in 2003 soon becoming an active member of the Rotary Club of Qualicum Beach. It would be hard to think of an event hosted by the club that wouldn’t find him present rolling up his sleeves and pitching in. As club secretary and president he volunteered countless hours.
If you read his D5020 directory bio as District Governor, you may know that Michael was born in Vancouver and graduated from St. George’s School before taking an overseas training course with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in England. After returning to Canada to work for BMC, he then joined the Chrysler Corporation in the Vancouver regional office…then transferred to the Alberta office. By 1977 he had entered into a partnership with a Chrysler dealership in Peace River, Alberta. This was to be home and his happy place for 25 years. It was also the site of his early political career. Elected to town council, he then served four terms as a very popular mayor. He also acted as Chairman of the Fairview College Board of Governors and sat on the Board of governors of Grande Prairie College.
What you may not know is that Michael had a twin sister, and has two very accomplished nieces and a nephew—he was so proud of their life achievements. He once raced sports cars in B.C. and northwestern U.S.
He won a production class in an Austin Healy in 1960 and a modified class in a Lotus in 1963. He loved to drive. His vehicles were immaculate, housed in a garage tidy enough to eat off the floors. His garage also served as a showcase for the many racing trophies he had won. Lifelong friends Barry and Marcella Ellis had the privilege of knowing Michael during his Peace River years and then moving at the same time to Qualicum Beach. Barry noted that Michael was a remarkable travelling companion who had been to all continents….and loved his adventures in the Arctic, Antarctic, Africa, and South America. He was a feisty competitor who loved a game of golf or a good challenge on a racquetball court.
After his term a District Governor, Michael stayed active as the Registrar for Pacific Northwest PETS (Presidents-Elect Training Seminar) helping organize materials for training over 600 presidents-elect in nine Rotary districts.
He often encouraged me and others to take on roles that would enrich our own Rotary experience. After my term as District Governor he quite actively encouraged me as his successor as co-registrar for Pacific Northwest PETS.
I shared many preparation sessions as his ‘registration shadow’ in Bowser spending long hours configuring registration materials. In fact, he taught me to drop a few choice words when the photocopier would repeatedly jam or smear the ink on the tent cards when we worked the machine too vigorously. When with Michael, there was always plenty of laughter. He was the king of the corny joke and had a rapid fire wit and sense of humour. And he wasn’t shy about sharing an opinion or two.
I think it’s also important to note that he loved the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
He was eager to help shepherd those young ambassadors and so generous with his time and support. A highlight of his DGE year was attending the youth exchange orientation in Seabec Washington. He was quick to join in the multiple photo ops offered when a group of students would gather around their District Governor. Michael believed that clubs were enriched by the presence of the students it hosted because he saw many of them as our future leaders and peace representatives.
As we have learned in Rotary we never truly know which lives have been influenced yet it would be easy to venture that Michael reached many lives through his generosity, his energy, and his unflagging passion for all things Rotary.
He loved to attend the Zone Institutes to be reunited with the classmates from his District Governor year.
He loved to swap stories. He was so admired for his integrity and loyalty. A multiple Paul Harris Fellow he modelled a true spirit of giving as a Paul Harris Fellow, a Level 2 Major Donor, and a Level 1 Legacy Society member.
The Rotary Foundation was so important to him because he knew what the collaborative power of our combined giving could offer through community and international grants.
It was Paul McCartney who once said, “And in the end, the love we make, is equal to the love we take”. Given that thought Michael, you take with you a great deal of love and respect. Thank you for being a friend…and a Rotarian who helped to transform life opportunities for others. Michael, you are so missed!