It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of John at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria on December 19, 2023 after a sudden, short illness. He was surrounded by his beloved wife of nearly 40 years, Barbara (nee Kemp), and their children Peter, Simon (Yumiko) and Anna. He leaves behind his sisters Caroline and Paddy (Pie) and many relatives in the UK, Australia and Canada. His loss is immeasurable and he will be greatly missed.

John was born in London, England, the son of Commander Arthur J. Bailey OBE RN and Ann Bailey. As the son of a naval officer, John moved frequently around the south of England, finally settling close to the English Channel in Cornwall. His early teenage summers were spent living with a stonemason’s family in France, helping out in the business while becoming fully bilingual.  His secondary education and accountancy studies were completed in Plymouth, a short ferry ride across the River Tamar from his home in Cornwall. Once qualified, his career as an oil and mining executive began. A yearning for adventure, instilled in him by his father, prompted John to seek his first employment with Price Waterhouse in Amsterdam. As one interested in furthering his career, he took it upon himself to become proficient in Dutch. From Amsterdam, he joined Shell International Petroleum, moving on to Billiton International Metals in The Hague. In 1979, he was appointed Vice President Finance of Billiton Canada Ltd. His expat lifestyle ended seven years later with his repatriation to the Manchester area where he held various positions in the Downstream and Chemical business of Shell International Petroleum in the UK. In 1994, he moved to the Regional Treasury division of Shell International and specialized in project financing, particularly in less developed countries. (His success in this area earned him an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace). His final position with Shell was CFO of the Shell petrol business in the UK and Ireland before retiring and returning to Canada in 2003.

John’s retirement was short lived. A few months in, while still unpacking boxes, he received a call from a former Billiton colleague who was now a principal at Quadra Mining Ltd. John was lured back to the work force, hired to lend a hand on the commercial side, becoming the “Mr. Fix-it” of the company during intense periods of mergers and acquisitions. After the company was taken over in 2012, John continued on for a few more years, consulting for various projects. It was a source of some disbelief last year when he received a letter congratulating him on his 50 years as an accountant.

He is fondly and affectionately remembered by those who worked for and with him. For some, working with John was the highlight of their careers. Besides being a good accountant, colleagues described him as being good with people, a good manager, and a good man. He consistently forged close knit teams, creating team spirit and pride in their accomplishments. John was friendly, open and took time with each individual.

So many people simply characterize John as “one of the good ones” taken far too soon. He is remembered for his ability to treat everyone equally. He was acknowledged an excellent negotiator, both by those with whom he worked as well as family members who appreciated his deft maneuvering during a particularly tricky land negotiation in Barbara’s family. As the eldest, John was the head of his UK family, but also the unofficial head of the Kemp family where he was considered “the glue that held the family together”. He has been described as kind, gentle, unassuming, humble, and very easy with whom to spend time. He understood people, was a good listener and knew how to give them what they needed without being asked. John also had a way with the family’s much loved cocker spaniels, Sam and Susie, as well as other people’s dogs.

John was a valued mentor with both colleagues and family members.  Several people have highlighted the significance of John’s guidance and how in some cases he led them to make life changing decisions. One said, “I owe everything to John”. Those who knew John recognized in him a person of impeccable integrity and values, and trusted his judgement.

While John had a varied and often exciting career, the real adventure of his life was his 40 plus years with Barbara. They met at a Christmas party in The Beaches (Toronto) where they found themselves, an accountant and a young MBA grad, in a room full of networking lawyers. She was attracted to his fine manners, his amusing turn of phrase and wit, and definitely not his confusing mix of colours in his outfit of choice. She would have been more sympathetic had she known he was colour blind. It was not long before they realized they had found their lifelong partners. They shared many common interests, notably books, skiing, water sports, good food and wine, cottage life and travel. John always said he married for the fun and the adventure, both of which continued until his untimely death. They spent many summers at the Kemp family cottage before buying their own across the bay. John was curious and well informed about the world. He was known and sometimes teased by Barbara for always having his Economist tucked under his arm. John and Barbara travelled extensively for years: Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and more. There were few places they hadn’t wanted to visit and not done so. Travel frequently involved at least one child in tow, Anna being the one who accompanied them the most. John’s happiest destination was Cape Horn where he proudly walked the perimeter of the windswept island and signed his name in the guest book.

John’s enthusiasm for life led him to become an accomplished sailor, table tennis player, and skier, skiing his last run at 74. He was also an enthusiastic but slightly less accomplished golfer. That did not stop him from being outstanding company in the clubhouse afterwards. He was a lover of jazz, classical music (kick started in Amsterdam where he would frequently stroll a short distance from his flat to The Concertgebouw) and opera, the latter of which took him from the Santa Fe Opera Festival to the Sydney Opera House.

John felt truly blessed to have three devoted children. They will have a wealth of memories on which to reflect, many of which involve a healthy dose of British humour, anything from Monty Python to The Two Ronnies to Have I Got News For You. He always encouraged his children to pursue their interests, believe in themselves and take bold leaps, often saying, “Do it—it’s an adventure”, even if he had apprehensions. This attitude led Anna and Simon to embark on many adventures, most notably Anna travelling South America solo for one and a half years at 24, and Simon doing the Everest Base Camp walk in winter when he was 20. Peter chose to chase his dreams in Whistler, BC. John would tell them to stay put when things got tough, always trusting that things would improve, and in the process teaching his children to be resilient in difficult times. He encouraged his children to know their value in both their work and personal lives, ensuring they never settled for anything less than what they deserved. John viewed life as a journey that provided many learning opportunities. If something hadn’t gone to plan in one of his children’s lives, he viewed it as a learning opportunity for them to learn and would calmly say, “Well… (one of John’s frequent, long pauses), there’s a lesson in all of this”. He’d lend a compassionate ear before diving in to help them solve whatever problem required assistance.

Despite his devotion to work and family, John always found time to volunteer in the community. He wrote lively match reports for the Bookham Colts Football Club in the UK, acted as treasurer for numerous community organizations in the UK, The Netherlands and Canada, and most notably and recently the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

Having lived in several places in the UK, and Toronto and Kelowna in Canada, John and Barbara finally settled in Victoria, 400 metres from the Juan de Fuca Strait. It was his wish to spend his final years close to the sea, ending his life as he had begun it. His sister commented: “I have so many memories of John on, or by, (but almost never) in the water.” He was a skilled sailor, but never much of a swimmer. Summers were spent on the water, kayaking at their beloved Twin Lakes, hosting family and friends and enjoying the call of the loon in the quiet of a Northern Ontario evening.  They travelled to their cottage from both Kelowna and Victoria for five consecutive summers, always in their Volvo station wagon, loaded to the gills, for their long journey. Those many drives were an adventure in themselves, until recently with an aging cocker spaniel. John loved the open road, the playlists and podcasts, the scenery of this magnificent country.

John’s journey through life was guided by integrity, hard work, humour, patience, and above all, humility, respect and consideration of others. One of John’s many talents was his ability to make every person feel welcome, respected and valued which led him to become a trusted colleague, confidant and friend to many.  He will be remembered for many things, not the least of which is what he himself said in a comedic will he wrote in the 1970’s where he says, “I have always believed in a sense of humour and enjoying oneself and I would like to be remembered for that”. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered.

As John wished, cremation has taken place. A Celebration of Life will be held in the summer. For those who wish, donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or a charity of your choice.

Memories, stories and condolences may be shared with the family below.

McCall Gardens

  • Keith Taylor

    John ‘rescued’ me from Mordor aka Stanlow in 1988. I then spent 5 fairly entertaining & happy years working for him in Wythenshawe, as a Witchsmeller Pursuivant, turning over various stones and finding all sorts of worms, in various locations, from Don & Low in Forfar to building the Hell Haven Naphtha Minus in a big shed in Dordrecht. After which, he was most helpful in persuading Shell Chemicals in Chester that I’d make a good Credit Manager.
    After John’s time in Audit he moved on to become the Finance Manager of Shell UK Retail. When he retired, he moved back to Canada, where he had first met & then married his wife Barbara, when working for Billiton, mining gold in his pre-Internal Audit days. As a Cornish man, that is what a ‘Cousin Jack’ does of course – some of you may know the Steve Knightley (of Show of Hands) song.
    There aren’t many of my former bosses that I continued to have cordial relations and frequent correspondence with, plus the occasional phone call, for over 30 years, but I did with John. He really was a great guy and huge fun. Requiescat in Pace, my friend.

  • Caroline Di Lallo

    John was one of my “bosses” at BCL (Billiton Canada Ltd) in Canada in 1978 as the VP of Finance. He was a humourous, lovely gentleman who shared mv love of ABBA with me in the halls of BCL. We sang and danced to Dancing Queen like two kids (neither of us being a great dancer)! Nonetheless – John was not only a work colleague and superior, but a friend whose leadership was conducted by heart and soul. A good listener and always “door open” policy. We had the great privilege of staying in touch over the years on his stop overs in Toronto and at the PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Convention). Always a good drink and laughs. Miss you John, Love Carol

  • Bob Mason

    I’d known John for just a few years, since I was invited to join the Kelowna based Filos group, a group of intellectuals who, until Covid 19 hit, met on a monthly basis in individual members’ homes. One of them, Andrew Grindlay, lived in the Missionwood Retirement Resort in Kelowna, where my wife and I then lived. By the time I was invited to join the group, they no longer met in person and the men met on the Zoom video based platform on a weekly basis. That’s when I met and got to know John through the Zoom meetings. As time went by, members including my friend, Andrew Grindlay passed away. At his Celebration of Life, held in Kelowna, I met Guy ( and Jacqueline ) Leclercm and have since visited them in their Kelowna home on a couple of occasions. By early 2023, Filos consisted of John, Guy and me, so our weekly Zoom sessions enabled us to each learn more about one another, as well as giving us sufficient time to solve the problems of the world.

    In September 2023, John and Barbara having quite recently returned from their annual summer trip back east to their cabin, my wife and I planned to meet John for lunch when a cruise we were on was scheduled to have an overnight stay in Victoria. Sadly, the arrival was delayed by quite some hours, due to very stormy weather as we came south from Alaska, and our lunch had to be cancelled, while John had later engagements which didn’t allow us to meet.

    I never met John face to face, but, through the many hours of Zoom chats, I came to realize what a highly talented and disciplined man he was, and how much he contributed to society, not merely through his many business-associated accomplishments, but also of his volunteer work with different cultural groups, including the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, which I supported during the many years I lived in Kelowna. John was also a great encouragement to people in his immediate circle, and that included me. I shall miss him, but will remember his friendship and encouragement till I join him in the world to come.

  • Rosemary Buswell

    John Bailey was not only my cousin but a dear friend. We spent the most time together during his stay in Manchester in the 1970s. He worked for Shell, but used to hang out with myself and other student friends a lot of the time. He was much loved by everyone for his sense of humour, his generosity in buying us meals, and for being the lovely man that he was. His untimely departure has shocked and saddened us all, he will be much missed.

  • Simon Morgan

    I always enjoyed Cousin John’s company and a few years ago we shared two epic road trips, the first from Kelowna to Colorado in his Porsche convertible, and the second 2 years later in a U-Haul truck across Canada, with a load of furniture! There was never a dull moment with conversation and laughter aplenty. In July I with Join Barbara, Pete, Simon and Anna, and other relatives and friends in Vancouver, for a celebration of John’s life. We all miss him greatly.

  • Chris Parkinson

    John and I met at Shell’s Carrington plant in the UK in late 1970s. We immediately recognized each other as a kindred spirit, sharing the same sense of humour and an easy-going approach to life, with a social concience

    We also developed a liking for liquid (Boddingtons) lunches from time to time.

    John moved to the Hague with Shell, while I moved into computing services away from Shell.

    Our paths crossed again in Toronto in 1980. By this time John was CFO of Billiton and I had just become EVP of the totally new Canadian operations of EPS, a UK financial software modelling company.

    Typical of John, he offered me his spare bedroom until my wife and two sons arrived. As this was to be 6 months later John and I enjoyed the time together, playing squash, skiing in Horseshoe Valley and frequenting a tavern close to his apartment, whose name is long forgotten.

    I melted his fridge. Using a heater that I left in overnight. I still remember the look on his face in the morning. I bought him another. It was even funnier when his landlord tried to justify a rent increase by listing Mr. Bailey’s new fridge as an expense. Fodder for John to lead the objectors.

    I think I remember the first time Barbara visited the apartment and he introduced us. It was obvious this was the start of something. This resulted in a wedding in New Liskeard and a very enjoyable weekend up there.

    John then moved around with Shell and then his second career over in BC.

    We kept in irregular touch by email and latterly Twitter, sharing things that amused us – from Private Eye, or video clips of the 2 Ronnies or Monty Python – or, in the case of Brexit, infuriated us.

    As we were both by now retired, we could looked forward to mutual vacations in Vancouver or the Lake District in the UK.

    Very sadly, this was not to be. I will miss my friend John, very much.

  • Patricia Di Risio

    Dear Anna, Barbara, Simon, Yumiko, Peter and family, my thoughts and prayers are with you all in your time of grief and loss. My sincere condolences, much love, Patricia (Patricia Di Risio, Australia).

  • The Hove’s

    Remembering John and Susie having a stroll on the Greenway.
    He lived quite a full and adventurous life for that he and the family are blessed.

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