Michael John Tarr (Mike) died unexpectedly on June 10, 2010 at age 68 of heart failure in hospital in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Mike was born in Prince Rupert on April 17, 1942. His family moved soon thereafter to southern California where he lived until age 10 before returning to Canada when his father accepted a research and teaching position at UBC. Mike completed school in North Vancouver, but not before spending many glorious summers fishing and swimming with family and friends both on BC’s coast and in the interior. At home, he enjoyed a stimulating environment with many engaging visitors such as famous ecologist Rachel Carson and actor Gregory Peck.
A football scholarship from Humboldt State University took Mike back to California in 1960. Following a couple of busy and adventurous years there, Mike enrolled at UBC where he continued his studies and played more football. In 1963, he returned briefly to Prince Rupert where he somewhat accidentally made his first foray into teaching although he was not yet in possession of the bachelor’s (UBC) and master’s degrees (UVIC) in education, which were to later support his career in teaching and school administration. It was there he met Colleen Marie Wawn and they were married in 1964.
Mike held dual Canadian and American citizenship following his childhood in the US, and this resulted in a stint in the US Army’s Military Police during the Vietnam War.
Mike’s career in education included a period in Quebec’s Eastern Townships before bringing him and his young family back to Prince Rupert’s schools in 1970. He taught history and then moved to the administrative side as a vice-principal and finally principal. All through his years at the schools he coached many sports teams and with his belief in broad-based learning opportunities he initiated a variety of programs for the benefit of young people. He never lost enthusiasm for reading history, especially that surrounding the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.
Already a director on one of Prince Rupert’s credit unions since the early ‘80s, when an economic downturn in both the fishery and the forest industries crippled Prince Rupert’s credit unions, Mike accepted the challenge of steering a newly unified credit union. He proved to be a creative and innovative problem solver and under his leadership, Northern Savings thrived.
Mike’s thoughtful leadership was widely appreciated throughout the credit union system, culminating in terms as board chair of both BC Central Credit Union and of Credit Union Central of Canada. Through the years, he also participated in many other credit union and co-operative related institutions. Beyond his role within the education and credit union systems, Mike served his community in many ways, from the library board to the port authority. At the time of his death, he was an appointed director and finance chair of the Northern Development Initiative Trust. His commitment to the well being of northern British Columbia was unwavering to the end.
Mike was an avid reader, both of non-fiction and fiction. An early love of stories in the western genre gave way to a passion for murder mysteries. But books had to make space for the game
during baseball season. The fortunes of the Blue Jays could draw Mike away from the stress of the financial world, but whatever teams were playing, it was the mix of grace and tension that made baseball “the great game” for him. A long-time golfing enthusiast and exceptional player in his own right, he spent many happy hours on the links, often putting in an early game before heading to work.
In addition to the books, baseball, and golf, Mike was a fan of many musical genres but had a special affection for jazz and r & b. He never missed an opportunity to support the local arts scene. He frequented the concert hall and music festivals and had planned to attend the Kaslo Jazz Festival this summer with his sons and brother-in-law.
Mike is survived by his wife, Kathleen Gabelmann, his sons Bob and Scott and their families, his step-daughter Kiri, his brothers Patrick Allwood and Robin Tarr and their families, and by his many friends and colleagues, for all of whom he was truly a special guy.
The community is invited to a commemorative service to be held at the Lester Centre of the Arts in Prince Rupert on Sunday, June 20, 2010, beginning at 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family invites people to contribute to the Michael J. Tarr memorial scholarship, held through the Credit Union Foundation of British Columbia. Donations can be made at Northern Savings Credit Union.