Remembering Warren Buckley, industry leader and AIPC supporter

Date: 01/08/2022


BUCKLEY, Warren James
February 16, 1949 July 14, 2022

One day during the installation of the newly upgraded, iconic pillow-top roof at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, a crew of workers took their lunch break across the street at the Costco food court. Another man, who was also wearing a hardhat and safety vest, sat down with his hot dog and asked if he could join them. Amid the chatter, they asked about his job on the project. “Quality control,” he replied, and they all left lunch that day unaware they’d just shared ketchup-and-onion stories with the man ultimately in charge of the project, CEO Warren Buckley.

Everyone who met him has a “Warren” story, whether it be about his long drives off the tee mixed with occasional lack of control, criss-crossing the globe to get home to surprise Rilla for their anniversary, or having to sit across the table negotiating terms and conditions. To experience Warren was to witness quiet leadership, actions over words, and giving a part of himself to lift others up. Despite many adventures, celebrity encounters, and business accomplishments, Warren’s pull was always to his family.

Warren chose July 14, 2022 as his last day of life, grateful to leave when his own words came true: “Enough is enough.” He was at home on a bright summer day in Furry Creek, BC, and surrounded by love, laughter and family. As with everything in his life, Warren’s choice of a medically assisted death was made with grace and dignity, and allowed him to write the last chapter of his life after a diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia.

Warren believed in possibility. “Life is an upgrade,” he often said, and the chapters of his life show the opportunities he found and created. Born in Crystal City and raised in Killarney, Manitoba with his sister June, Warren left the prairies to pursue a career in the RCMP. Warren’s first posting was in Chilliwack, BC where he met Rilla Preston, the firecracker who would become his wife. After the arrival of daughter Tricia, the family moved for Warren to complete his degree from the University of Winnipeg, and then on to Fort St. John in Northern BC for an RCMP posting, where son Chris was born.

In what would become a hallmark practice, Warren made a daring career move by leaving the RCMP and taking a job with Xerox in 1977. He flourished in the role, earned a promotion and moved his young family to Vancouver. That job was followed by a sales and marketing position with the planned pre-Expo BC Place Stadium. By 1994, Warren was made president of BC Pavilion Corp., a role that routinely provided dinnertime adventure stories his kids had to pry out of him from loaning his office chair to the Pope to have lunch, exchanging personal letters with golfer Jack Niklaus, or being asked to pray with Billy Graham and many more.

Warren was a devoted and ever-present Dad (not Father – there is a big difference!) to Chris and Tricia. Despite the traveling life of an executive, they always knew he was a phone call away, even if that phone was in Outer Mongolia. Warren was an exceptional listener to his kids, never giving them directions to places he had never been.

The most memorable adventure for Warren and Rilla came when Warren was asked to lead the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore. “I was offered a job, and Rilla accepted,” he would recount. Their seven years in Singapore were some of the most memorable of their lives. As Warren would say “I had the Employment pass and Rilla had the Enjoyment pass.” Rilla and Warren lived many stories along the way, often around golf holidays, and including many cherished family trips. Throughout Warren and Rilla’s marriage, Warren boasted they had a combined eight holes-in-one, and he was very proud of his *one*.

Asked to return to Vancouver in 2007 to once again take on leadership of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and BC Place Stadium, Warren’s finale as CEO capped a stellar career, symbolized by running a leg in the Torch Relay as part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. There were many other great moments for him in these years; none greater than the arrival of three grandchildren for Poppy, as he was called.

Of the successes in life and work that seemed to come naturally to him, Warren often commented “I’m only a kid from Killarney, Manitoba.” Witty, kind, helpful and humble are the words that most often come up to describe him, and everyone he came across felt his belief and pride in their success. As granddaughter Lauren said about her Poppy after interviewing him for a school project, “he leads from behind, not from ahead.”

“I think I’ve done some good here,” were Warren’s last words, as he looked at loving faces around him. “All of you.”

Profoundly grateful for him, and forever laughing with memories are his wife of 52 years, Rilla Buckley, daughter Tricia and Brock Grey (Lauren & Jordan) son Chris and Brooke Van Hatten (Chloe); sister June Kaan of Winnipeg, numerous adored and adoring nieces and nephews, and members of the Preston family, who embraced him from the time he and Rilla met.

To support research and work on Lewy Body Dementia, the Buckley Family asks you to please consider a donation to Dr. Robin Hsiung at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC.

A Celebration of Life will be held August 27th at the Vancouver Convention Centre West at 3 p.m.

Please raise a glass of your finest scotch and light a cigar in honour of this most beautiful man.
Safe travels, sweet Dad.

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