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Dave Butler Bids Adieu

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

David Butler has been the village building inspector for the last twenty-six years. In that time he's had his hands on almost every house in Lions Bay. But for all the people he's helped in this village, not many know that it was a disaster that led David Butler toward the career that directed the second half of his working life. This is likely no surprise to anyone who knows him, since he's the kind of guy who runs toward trouble. And even now that he's pushing 80, it's been no easy decision for Dave to say goodbye to the life he has built for himself and his family here in Lions Bay.


Dave was born in 1944 in the northern part of England; a country that by that time had been wrung dry by the war. He worked two paper routes while he was growing up in Halifax, which was a good-sized market town nestled in the south-east corner of Yorkshire. He met his wife Jean when they were both 15, right around the time he quit school to become a carpenter's apprentice.


As a boy, Dave was a keen cyclist, and he can be seen here in the early 60's, competing in a Derbyshire Hill Climb.


Before Dave and Jean got married, they bought a little weaver's cottage in the Pennines, in the town of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters grew up. But the two of them had the travel bug, so instead of taking up residence in their wee cottage, they decided to try somewhere new. They considered Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia before settling on Canada. As a new home, they agreed it looked pretty cold, but when Dave pulled out an encyclopedia to take a peek at the West Coast, they decided Vancouver might be a good choice.


In order to emigrate, they had to promise to settle for a year in Calgary before heading further west, and spent their honeymoon in Canada in 1967.


They've never looked back. Dave's first job in Calgary was doing the concrete pour on the Husky Tower (now the Calgary Tower), earning $2.75 an hour. He couldn't find a job as a finishing carpenter in the city, so after a year in Calgary, he and Jean jumped into their MG and drove out to the coast. They were having a meal at Trolls in Horseshoe Bay when they spotted a ferry pulling in. Always up for adventure, they hopped aboard, and ended up renting a little waterfront cottage on the Gorge in Victoria. Jean got a job with a lawyer in the city and Dave worked as a shipwright.


By 1968 work in Victoria began to run out, and Dave spotted an opportunity for employment in North Vancouver. Once he accepted the position he learned that while the company was in North Van, the job itself involved assembling tugboats in Hay River, NWT. Once they were put together, the tugs sailed out onto Great Slave Lake, and then up the Mackenzie River all the way to Tuktoyuktuk, NWT.

With the proceeds of this job, Dave and Jean bought a house on Westview Drive, and a little red Mustang that they drove down to California at the height of the 1960's Haight-Ashbury scene. Jean wanted to see Big Sur, and Dave recalls camping on the beach beside a yellow school bus. The bus had been turned into a camper van, housing a large group of what Dave recalls as pretty girls, and a single older man. It wasn't until Dave and Jean got back to Canada they learned the bus driver had been Charles Manson, later discovered to be a murderous cult leader.


Jeannie and David Butler, 1970.

By the early 1970's Dave had started up a company doing millwork and construction in Vancouver, and he and Jean had a young family. Sometime around 1980, he'd made enough money to join as a minority partner investing in an old hotel on Burrard Street. In addition to its questionable reputation as a hotel, 777 Burrard also housed an art shop, a restaurant and a ladies wear store.


The partners had big plans to convert the run-down six-storey building into fifty-two suites, and create the city's first wood-framed strata building. This was a huge project, and Dave had two foremen and a staff of fourteen working for his company, building the new units, and installing elevators and sprinkler systems. For his return on the investment, Dave had picked one of the units, which he planned to sell when it was finished. The market was shooting skyward, and the project was doing so well, Dave and Jean took their boys out of school and away for a three-month holiday. They visited Hawaii, and then flew west on to Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia on the adventure of a lifetime.


When the family returned to their home on Panorama Place, they expected to make their fortune on his new project, but were instead met by sheriff's deputies. While they were on their adventure, the market had crashed, the units had all been seized and Dave's company had lost everything. Instead of a future as a real estate mogul, Dave and Jean and their young family were threatened with ruin.


Not sure where to turn, Dave signed on to build a warehouse next to Dairyland in Vancouver. While out seeking a building permit, he noticed a posting for a job as an inspector, and applied. In those days, his experience was enough to land him a job as a Level One Building Inspector in Burnaby, and he held the position until he retired as a Supervisor/Manager with his own staff of eight inspectors in 2011. Over the years he collected all the required certifications, and along the way helped construct Metrotown, parts of Simon Fraser University, Brentwood and Crystal Malls, and even the Women's Prison, along with dozens of other projects.


In the 1990's when Burnaby went to a nine-day fortnight work model, he happened to mention it to one of the office managers in Lions Bay. Bernice Coleman suggested he take on the inspector's role part-time, and Dave's been working in the village ever since.


David and Jean bought their first house in Lions Bay in 1973 - fifty years ago. From that first home on Panorama Place, they've lived in various homes around the village as their children grew up. Dave's volunteered with our firefighter and ambulance teams in Lions Bay. He's been the inspector (these days the title is Village Building Official) during the tenures of eight councils and seven mayors, and has seen a lot of change in the village over the years. And in early February, he decided it was time to make a statement, and offered his resignation.


Over the couple of hours Dave and I sat talking outside the store last week, we were interrupted every few minutes, as a passing resident would spot him, politely break into our conversation and wish him well. He shook a dozen hands, and promised to go for a beer more times than I could count. His presence as the go-to guy for building in the village is already sorely missed. A lot of folks asked after Jean, who has been in ill health, having recently suffered a second stroke.


When I asked if he'd ever consider coming back, he told me he'd reached out to the village office already. "I feel bad for all the people with open permits," he said. "I offered to come back for free, even, to close out the open jobs. But I gave them two conditions. That council members needed to respect the boundaries and office areas of the staff. And that any vacant positions coming up wouldn't be filled by friends of friends."


His offer to return was declined.


Dave Butler, Lions Bay 2023.

As we stood up to say goodbye, I asked what's next on the horizon for Dave and his family. Is he going to take up any of the multiple job offers he's had from other municipalities?


"No," he said. "It's time I finally retire. And right now, I'm going to look after my wife."


Since he's done such a good job looking after the rest of us all these years, she's certainly in the best of hands.


Thanks for everything, Dave.




Edit: Dave's most recent letter to council can be found in the council minutes on page 53, HERE.



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Hi Karen,


Thank you for this fantastic article about Dave & Jeanie Butler.s journeys before and after arriving in Lions Bay 50 years ago. It is very obvious when you read this article that Dave has contributed to the Village of Lions Bay in so many ways besides his duties as the building inspector for the Village.

On a personal note, Marilyn and I are building a new home in Brunswick Beach and you couldn't find a more helpful straight shooter than Dave Butler to work with while building a new home,

We met Dave at the Village office when the process was in its infancy and he outlined what was acceptable and what was not and what variances could…


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Thank you Karen, for the delightful and interesting article on Dave Butler. He has indeed served our community well these last many years. Never unreasonable when dealing with homeowners, he always did his best to keep building sites in compliance, without unnecessary delays. The old adage "time is money" is particularly true when embarking on home renovations or a new build. Delays can be very costly. Homeowners in Lions Bay are faced not only with our aging infrastructure, in the community itself, but our aging homes facing ever higher energy costs and more extreme weather events, like heat domes.


Dave was always there to facilitate the homeowners plans, giving advice and guidance along the way, while keeping a friendly and…


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brenda broughton
brenda broughton
Feb 21, 2023

Thank you, Karen, for this lovely article on David and Jeanie Butler,


Thank you Dave, for serving the Village of Lions Bay for 26 years.


I enjoyed working with you for about 12 years of the 15 years I served as Mayor of the Village of Lions Bay.


Michael and I send along our love to both you and Jeanie.


I smile/giggle, when I think of going to the Village Office in Fall, 2008 to submit my nomination papers as Mayor following being out of office since 2002. You came to the counter and said, "Brenda if elected the first item will be to accompany me onto a worksite, where the owner will be asked to remove a part of…


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Thank you Karen for this delightful story about Dave. I have known Dave for 50 years, but because he is such a modest individual, there was much about his achievements of which I was unaware.

Our Village has benefitted from his expertise and wisdom for 26 years as our building inspector, and he will be sorely missed.

With Dave, what you see is what you get--a straightforward man of justice, truth and integrity-- a model of behaviour for all of us.

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Dave’s contribution to the life of this village has been enormous since the day he moved here over 50 years ago. Long before he became our building inspector he was always amongst the first to volunteer.

Coincidentally Dave and Jean were married on the same Easter weekend as Rose and I, 56 years ago in different parts of the UK.

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