A crash on the Malahat portion of Highway 1 has claimed the life of one of Port Alberni’s community leaders.
Terry Whyte, 76, apparently suffered from an aneurysm while driving to the airport in Victoria, where he and his wife Shirley were to fly out to Winnipeg to spend New Year’s Eve with their daughter.
Whyte’s southbound Toyota Sienna crossed the centre line and sideswiped a northbound Dodge Caravan on a section of the Malahat Drive that is not separated by cement barriers. The Sienna then hit a northbound Honda Accord head on. The driver was pinned in her car, perched precariously near a cliff.
Whyte was extricated from his car and rushed to Victoria General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Shirley Whyte was expected to be released from hospital today. The 58-year-old Crofton woman driving the Honda Accord remains in hospital with serious injuries.
“I don’t think people in the community realize just what Terry did,” said Marlene Dietrich, president of Abbeyfield Port Alberni and a friend of the Whytes.
“He was never much to blow his own horn. He started so many things in this town. He personified Jack Layton’s saying, ‘don’t tell anybody it can’t be done’.”
Whyte founded Abbeyfield House in Port Alberni in 1992, persuading Port Alberni city council to delay demolition of the extended care unit of the old West Coast General Hospital, leaving him eight days to pull together plans and funding to create the home for seniors. He was also president of the B.C. chapter of Abbeyfield Canada, which has 20 Abbeyfield Houses in B.C. and another six in the planning stages. He also served on the board of Abbeyfield Canada.
Prior to that he spent 11 years as administrator at Fir Park Village before earning his real estate licence.
A retired United Church minister, Whyte served on various senior, housing and wellness committees in the Alberni Valley including the Alberni Valley Seniors Housing Planning Committee, the Community Health Council Formation Committee, Ty Watson House Society, Alberni Valley Community Foundation, Port Alberni Wellness Council and Citizens Stewardship Coalition.
He was appointed a member of the BC Seniors Advisory Council to the Minister Responsible for Seniors from 1992–95, was named Alberni’s citizen of the year in 2002 and in 2003 received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal from then Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo.
Whyte and his family, including daughters Jennifer, Melanie and Susan, moved to Port Alberni in 1973 after studying theology in India and working on community development, education counselling and as a missionary minister in places like Hazelton, the North Island and the west coast.
“It’s incredible what a hole he’s left in this community,” Dietrich said.
Whyte also worked for many years as a political activitist on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and the homeless, Dietrich said. “He is a strong advocate for those who may have no other voice.”
“He has left great footprints for all of us,” said Winston Joseph. “His spirit will live on forever in this community.”