Flags flown at half-mast to honour former Oak Bay mayor who died
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Monday, April 8, 2019 8:12AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, April 8, 2019 4:09PM PDT
For years Nils Jensen was the face and heart of Oak Bay. On Sunday, the community was shocked to find out the former mayor passed away after a brief battle with cancer at age 69.
Flags were flown at half-mast outside Oak Bay Municipal Hall Monday to mark Jensen's passing from an aggressive form of cancer that he was diagnosed with in December.
Jensen leaves behind a wife and two children, and a community that he was dedicated to is in mourning.
"Words are hard to find for someone who committed so much of his life to the betterment of our community, someone who cared so deeply about growing our community in a way where everyone is included and everyone can feel safe, secure and happy," said Ryan Painter, a Greater Victoria School District Trustee and friend.
Jensen immigrated from Denmark when he was a boy.
He grew up to become a lawyer, then taught law in Ontario and B.C. before turning to politics. He started as a councillor in Oak Bay in 1996, going on to become mayor in 2011. He was re-elected mayor in 2014 and also served as Chair of the Capital Regional District.
Jensen was defeated in a heated mayoral race last year. He'll be remembered as one of the district's staunchest supporters and proudest promoters.
"Our community has lost a giant. Our dear friend, Nils Jensen, died this morning after a short battle with cancer," wrote Michael McEvoy in a Facebook post on Sunday.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner and friend of Jensen wrote that the former mayor's impact was felt well beyond the borders of Oak Bay.
"While he loved his Oak Bay, Nils' forward-thinking vision extended to the entire lower island. His vast reservoir of patience and optimism allowed him to successfully work with many colleagues on critical infrastructure projects as a member and Chair of the Capital Regional District. Raising of the CRD dam to ensure fresh drinking water for future generations was a particular accomplishment," said McEvoy.
It seems almost everyone in Oak Bay knew Jensen, or at the very least, was familiar with him zipping around on his bicycle.
While they might not have always agreed with his politics, locals who spoke to CTV News all agreed, Jensen always tried to do his best.
"He had a good sense of humour, I remember him for that," said one woman.
"I remember seeing him on the sidewalk here walking and talking to everybody and never knew he had terminal cancer and I’m really quite shocked," said another Oak Bay resident.
Jensen left an indelible mark on the South Island.
"He really was a ray of sunshine, it followed him wherever he went, whether it was walking, or often cycling, in his community, Nils had happiness everywhere. His loss is, it’s devastating. It’s devastating for our community, it’s devastating for the South Island," said Painter.
He added that Jensen was a mentor who always taught him that people come first, and Jensen stayed true to that in both his private and public life.
"It did not matter what the issue was, people were in his heart."
Among his many legacies, Jensen will be remembered for his tireless fight to expand the Sooke Reservoir to preserve future drinking water.
"I think he's got an incredible legacy, both in terms of making sure that we have a clean drinking supply for decades, if not a century into the future," said NDP MLA Rob Fleming. "He was instrumental in making sure we ended the 30-year fruitless debate around whether we treat our sewage or not. Those are just a couple of things."
BC Green Party Leader and Oak Bay MLA Andrew Weaver said Jensen was a passionate advocate for issues like the reservoir, and also a good friend.
"He was humorous, he was engaging, and I think he will be missed very greatly by the community in Oak Bay, but he will never be forgotten because his legacy is throughout Oak Bay," said Weaver.
A memorial will be held at 2 p.m., on Thurs., April 11, at Oak Bay High School.